Sheldon Statewide: Steve Fitch
Learn more about a work from the 2022-2023 Sheldon Statewide exhibition, “On The Road Again.” This photograph is titled "Grand View Motel, Highway 87, Raton, New Mexico" and was made by Steve Fitch in 1980. Sheldon Statewide is an annual program through which artworks from the museum’s collection travel to venues throughout Nebraska. Since its inception in 1987, the program has taken exhibitions to 25 communities, reaching more than 365,000 people. “On The Road Again” will be presented in Chadron, North Platte, McCook, Grand Island, York, Beatrice, Fremont, and Falls City.
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[00:00:08.550]Steve Fitch's photographs, much like many
[00:00:10.890]of the other works in this exhibition,
[00:00:12.960]capture commonplace aspects of traveling in America.
[00:00:16.230]Here we see a sign for a motel with colorful neon shapes
[00:00:19.230]and words illuminating its dark surroundings,
[00:00:21.900]the kind of sign you might see
[00:00:23.310]while driving across the network of America's highways.
[00:00:26.790]Steve Fitch attended the University of California-Berkeley
[00:00:30.210]and earned a degree in anthropology.
[00:00:32.520]While there in the 1970s, he taught at the ASUC Studio,
[00:00:37.020]now known as the Berkeley Arts Studio,
[00:00:39.330]where Roger Minick, whose photography
[00:00:41.310]is also in this exhibition, worked as well.
[00:00:44.430]Minick helped Fitch publish his first book
[00:00:46.710]of photography, "Diesels and Dinosaurs."
[00:00:49.710]These two works from Sheldon's collection
[00:00:51.540]show that Fitch titled this series quite literally.
[00:00:55.530]This project was the beginning of Fitch's interest
[00:00:57.660]in the visual language of the road trip.
[00:00:59.820]Here we can think of visual language as visible things
[00:01:02.610]and places that have a unifying theme when seen together.
[00:01:06.390]Fitch made his second series, "Western Landmarks,"
[00:01:09.300]which continued his use of this specific visual language
[00:01:12.000]of the road trip, in color.
[00:01:14.220]This photograph is part of this series.
[00:01:18.120]Its full title is "Grand View Motel, Highway 87,
[00:01:21.870]Raton, New Mexico, December 18th, 1980."
[00:01:25.860]In this title Fitch has given us many specifics,
[00:01:28.440]such as the exact place and date that this image was taken.
[00:01:32.190]The sign itself gives us even more information.
[00:01:35.430]We can see the two major credit cards accepted
[00:01:37.590]at the motel and the offer of winter lodging rates.
[00:01:40.680]There's even a television in the rooms
[00:01:42.870]and an arrow with the word quiet points to the left,
[00:01:45.510]where we can imagine the motel is located just out of frame.
[00:01:49.620]Fitch did not take a picture of the Grand View Motel itself
[00:01:52.860]but in the same series and indeed the same town
[00:01:55.470]of Raton, New Mexico, he did photograph the Capri Motel.
[00:01:59.520]Here we see a visual emphasis on neon lights,
[00:02:02.490]in this case illuminating the walls of the building.
[00:02:05.400]No sign is visible in the frame,
[00:02:07.080]just a single star lit high up on the left side.
[00:02:10.890]Fitch was so interested in neon as a material
[00:02:13.230]that he learned how to work with it himself.
[00:02:15.870]Neon is an elemental gas
[00:02:17.430]that when heated emits a bright light.
[00:02:19.860]When captured in tubes it can be manipulated
[00:02:22.110]for a variety of aesthetic purposes.
[00:02:24.600]Here is one of the neon installations
[00:02:26.460]Fitch created in the 1980s,
[00:02:28.680]some of which are permanently installed in New Mexico.
[00:02:31.980]Looking at his neon installations, can you see the influence
[00:02:35.010]of the road signs in his photography?
[00:02:37.440]Steve Fitch's photographs show the viewer
[00:02:39.720]his consistent interest in the aesthetics
[00:02:41.940]of roadside attractions and signage.
[00:02:44.910]In the case of the Grand View Motel,
[00:02:47.070]since we just see the sign and not the building itself,
[00:02:49.920]what do you think it looked like?
[00:02:51.570]Why did Fitch photograph the sign but not the motel?
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