Week 5 – Artist Interview – Mike Lewis

What a great week for an artist interview! This interview didn’t unfold as an interview so much as a conversation between two abandoned-freely-used-wilderness area enthusiasts. When entering the gallery showcasing Mike Lewis’ work, I felt right at home. The gallery showed images taken in an area of of wilderness located near Mike’s hometown. This area felt familiar to me as I spend much of my time exploring the nature preserves and coastal areas of San Pedro and Palos Verdes.

I began talking to the artist about why he photographed here and he explained that he just became so fascinated with this area. Although the space was mostly empty, he found a huge assortment of groups of people and things telling about the land. Giving it character and life. We discussed how the lack of attention given to these types of wilderness areas serves as an attraction for people who are looking to get away from society. In these wild hills, Mike found and photographed everything from the homeless, to paint-ballers, to industrial waste from the factories that filled the area. This land was not looked on with much favor from society but certain types of people look at this place as a place of release when they cannot be in the midst of society.

Mike went on to also mention the feeling of these more wild parts. He said that there was an eerie sense of danger there. After doing research, he found the area had a dark history. I found that very interesting because I always thought places that were abandoned like that usually had some kind of history that just sticks to it. It was no different in the areas surrounding my house as there had been numerous deaths recorded, constantly signs of drug use (i regularly find syringes and remnants of joints), an element of crime with the many taggers who regularly visit, and the signs of poverty from the tents and sleeping bags left by the homeless.

There is an overall feeling of “stay away” on these places, but for people like Mike Lewis and I, these forgotten areas will always hold a character and appeal. imageimage (1)

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