Page One

On a warm day back in November '94 we were leaning up against the back of Bill's pick-up, with a stuffed bobcat on the tailgate between us (possibly the NW equivalent of Lautremont's umbrella and sewing machine) and we were talking about what was going on in the plateau region. We realized that there was a lot of very interesting stuff happening. We also talked about the mild arrogance of the coastal cities where the critical community seem to feel that if it doesn't happen there it just doesn't happen.

The idea that all artists should flock to those urban areas, and that those who don't lack either energy or talent or both, while arguable in the 19th century, seems curiously old-fashioned now. Our computers, modems, e-mail, cellular phones, faxes and the like, make it pretty easy to live anywhere and still be connected. Nevertheless, we are still to a certain extent prisoners of our geography, and those mountains are a mighty psychological barrier.

So here we are. Far from MOMA and MOCA, COCA, AIC, and all the other acronym'd museums (which we do miss, 'cause it's always better to see the real thing). What do we get in return beyond the obvious--- like cleaner air and better odds on not getting mugged?

Well, there is a certain connection to the land and a freedom to experiment that seems to go with that. A feeling that one can pick and choose and need not hew too closely to any particular -ism or style. And possibly a little cynicism about the machinations of the art game as it plays out on "first Thursdays". So sometimes we enjoy being called provincial, even seeing something positive in it.

"When one ceases to dwell in a province...one finds oneself within the dipersed utopia of cities... The provincial dweller knows that if you pull a rock from out of the ground and turn it upside down, you are likely to find on its under-side a covert world of soil, roots, worms and insects. A nonprovincial dweller either never suspects or else tends to forget such a thing, for the stones that make up his city have already been abstracted from the ground, wiped clean, and made to order. A province, in other words, is a place where stones have two sides."
Robert Pogue Harrison

So we decided to start a provincial magazine. We call it HIGH GROUND because it's about the art and design from this plateau region. We will publish once a year at first, and more often later (after all we all have other lives beyond the magazine) and we will look at all the sides of all the interesting stones we can find.

We could not begin an art magazine in this region without a special mention of the death of Edward Kienholz, a great American artist. Ed was born in Fairfield Wa., and lived part of the year in Hope Idaho. We will miss his vision, his commitment, his humor and his compassion. We send our love to Nancy Reddin Kienholz, and Noah, Chris, and Jennie.

This first issue includes articles by Albert Borgmann (whose books include "Crossing the PostModern Divide" published by U. of Chicago Press). Borgmann writes about the Festival of the Dead in Missoula, an artist-generated celebration that explores the uneasy relationship between art and religion in a secular society. Deborah Haynes describes the history of the curious connection between the Palouse and the Primorye region of Russia. Her new book "Bakhtin and the Visual Arts" will be published by Cambridge University Press this summer. Jake Seniuk, artist and director of the Port Angeles Center for the Arts, shares a personal reaction to the paintings of Rurik Tushkin, one of the Russian artists who recently visited Pullman.

And late this winter High Ground visited the Walla Walla Foundry and interviewed the founder and director Mark
Anderson. This is a real plateau story of a man with a vision and a commitment to his community. Artists from all over the country come to Walla Walla to work at the foundry, and High Ground talked to David Bates during the same visit, a Texas artist who was in residence there working on a series of new bronze pieces. Loretta Anawalt, a poet from Pullman, gave us some poems that react to the work of plateau artists whom she values. Loretta wrote the lyrics for one of the songs in the Merchant/Ivory film "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge" and has had her work published in "Iowa Woman".

In each issue we will be presenting the work of two plateau artists. For this first issue we have chosen Victor Moore and Paul Pak-hing Lee. Vic works in a sophisticated folk style, and Paul is at the cutting edge nationally of digitally altered photography. We hope that this feature will make their work available to a wider plateau audience and help to give us all a sense of a wider regional community.

Future issues that we've been thinking about would highlight area architecture and/or design, artist couples in the region, and profiles of art communities on the plateau. We will also follow artists from the Plateau on any interesting art-related journeys...we'll be at the International Women's Conference in Beijing this coming fall.

There are lots of people to thank. We have discovered that putting out a magazine, even once a year, is not a two-person undertaking. Marilyn and I are indebted to Bill, Jacque, Roy, Jo, Paul, Pat and all those people who gave us advice and ideas, and who encouraged us to keep on, even when it looked impossible. And to all those who came by for beer and pizza and helped collate the first issue. Each signed the issues they put together.