2018 Artist-In-Residence and current Buck Hill renter, Aaron Krach has new art on display in Cresco. The billboard exhibition is displayed prominently on 191 and 390. It is a site-specific tribute to Buck Hill Falls and, according to the artist, “a quintessential Aaron Text Art piece.” We welcome Aaron’s inspiration to the Poconos community and are honored to have him with us. We met with him to discuss his work, its inspiration and meaning, and his time here in Buck Hill.
What can you tell us about your work? What themes and topics do you use in your art?
I’ve lived and worked in NYC for more than 20 years now. I studied photography and sculpture, but since moving east from California, my art has evolved. My projects are now hybrid, mixed-media, interactive, and often grow out of research into a particular topic. The constants in my work are relevance to today–I want my work to be meaningful now; not in 50 years–and sincerity, because the world is cruel enough. Also, the audience is important. I am aware of who sees my work and I want them to be involved in some way. I try to keep part of every project accessible to the greater public, not just an art world audience. For example, I have a whole series of pieces called “Indestructible Artifacts” that the viewer must use in order to complete. These range from frisbees to bumper stickers, refrigerator magnets to pocket squares.
What is the title of the billboard piece in Cresco?
“The Space Between You and Me,” 2019-2020. I made it with William van Roden. He was an important collaborator on this project. Will is an amazing graphic designer who trained with Tibor Kalman, worked with Martha Stewart for years, and now gets tapped by the New York Times for big redesigns.
When did you start this project?
I first had the idea last summer. I noticed quite a few empty boards nearby Buck Hill and fantasized about using them to feature something personal; maybe some of my photos or text pieces. All in all, it took about three months to get these up. All three boards will remain on view until February 2020.
What inspired this piece?
I love almost all advertisements: billboards, movie posters, I even read my spam. It’s just so weird. Ads communicate, which is something I want my art to do, and billboards reach a huge audience, another thing I want my art to do. Around Buck Hill stand some amazing billboards: happy newlyweds, FIREWORKS, or firewood. I love those faded pictures of dogs at the K9 Training Ground. So beautiful and surreal.
As importantly, I’ve developed quite a fondness for Buck Hill over the last few years. My partner, Blake, and I were first introduced to BHF over a freezing New Year’s Eve. Now we have a son, Jack, and with his mom, Helen, we started renting a cottage for the whole family every summer. It’s become a special place to all of us. As sentimental as it sounds, I definitely wanted to give something back. I wanted to reach this audience with something meaningful, and hopefully positive.
Why did you choose to use the Buck Hill waterfalls?
On my first freezing visit to BHF, I was taken to the one of the falls. Folks are rightly very proud of them. In nature, they are strangely perfect in scale and placement. There is almost something unreal about them. Last year, Mary Kate Reeves-Hoche gave me a few vintage postcards. I used them for the cover of a book we made while I was an artist-in-residence last year. The postcards capture the perfect vintage quaintness of the falls. When Will and I started brainstorming, I grabbed the old cards first thing. I knew I wanted to use the images in a new context.
What materials did you use to create this work?
The background is a scan of the postcards. Super-hi-res to show the dots. I want people to know it’s a picture of a picture of a picture, something from the past crashing into the present. I only have two different cards, this is a mash-up of both.
The words come from a growing list of phrases, sentences, statements, and words I keep in order to use someday. They range from romantic to satirical, emotional to political. The best phrases have multiple meanings. For this project, I wanted something thought-provoking but inspirational. I definitely wanted to add something positive to the landscape. Will and I picked our “top five” options from the list and started testing them out on mock-ups. Knowing we had three signs, but one quite large, chopping the phrase in parts made sense poetically. Just like life, you can’t get the entire meaning at first glance.
Can you tell us a little about the work and its meaning? What is the space in between? Who are You and Me?
Quite literally, there is almost always someone nearby so the space is real, a physical distance between individuals. This can be comforting or creepy. The space is also conceptual. I feel close to people who live thousands of miles away in California but only see once a year. Language is fascinating in this way. It’s incomplete. We don’t have the right words to describe all the different kinds of space between people. People are everywhere. And I try to love and respect them all but fail mostly; it’s a struggle to get along with everyone. Hopefully the “you and me” is open. It could be parents and kids, spouses, new friends, old overs, co-workers, siblings. I’m excited by this phrase because so many different relationships can be suggested with just two words, “you and me.” Hopefully the audience can see themselves in there, too.
Why did you choose the billboards for this project?
I love the power of billboards. I have used them twice before, once in Ohrid, Macedonia, near the world’s oldest lake at more than 1 million years. I put up three boards that said EVERYTHING TAKES TIME in Macedonian. I thought: the way this ancient lake contrasts with the very young country that surrounds it is magical. Now called The Republic of North Macedonia, the country is less than 20 years old, formed after the break-up of Yugoslavia. It’s incredible how two such drastic scales of time co-exist.
What do you want viewers to take away from the work?
Two things: First, that billboards can be beautiful, and cool. Instead of leaving them up to decay, let’s make them better—or take them down completely. Second, I hope the phrase will burrow into the viewer’s mind. Maybe a driver passing will wonder what it means, and ask: Who is you and me? What is space? Why are these questions simple and unanswerable?
What are you working on next?
I’m finishing a new book for the New York Art Book Fair. I have a collection of photographs covering a couple’s entire wedding day, from dressing-up to driving-off with cans tied to the bumper. They were for sale at an auction house, discarded. I don’t know anything about the family, except that they are from Berwyn, Illinois. But the pictures are incredible, some beautiful, some outtakes, sometimes layered. I’ve asked a handful of writers to respond and the final book will debut at NYABF (September 20-22 at MoMA PS1 in Queens). That book fair is incredible; folks should check it out.
The Billboards will be up until February 2020. Aaron also taught his annual Collaborative Collage workshop on July 18 at the Buck Hill Falls Tennis Tea. To discover more about Aaron Krach and his artwork, visit his website at: www.aaronkrach.com.