Burning Off Water - Jesse Reding Fleming



Jesse Reding Fleming at his Los Angeles studio.

Jay Jorgensen

Jesse Reding Fleming earns his living as a photographer and videographer in Los Angeles; those media also drive his artwork. He thrives on the stimuli and connections abundant in the big city. For a long time, he had no interest in the desert; he thought of it as a “dead place.”

Then he visited friends in the Sahara in northern Africa. “I was floored by the sand dunes; they continued into the horizon in all directions,” Fleming said in a published interview earlier this year. “It was a slow-moving and evolving sea blown by wind, alive and in flux, but under different terms than I was used to. The guide told me, ‘The secret is in the silence.’ That stuck with me. It left me wanting to find out what that meant.”

In 2009, Fleming earned an artist’s residency in Joshua Tree National Park. For one month, he stayed in a cabin at the end of a dirt road, about 20 miles into the park. He had access to tank water and limited solar and battery power, but no means of communication with the outside world. He arose at dawn each day to immerse himself in his environment and record its sensations in photographs and video.

The result was Desert, an exhibition last spring at The Company, the Chinatown gallery in downtown Los Angeles. Desert included an eponymous video work — a 14-minute edit of Fleming’s daily shoots — and still photographs. With abstracted images culled from the same source material, he created an additional video work, IT.

Desert, filled with Fleming’s variegated explorations and extended hours and days of seeing, encapsulates one man’s sensory perceptions in the wild. There are long, lingering shots of dry landscape interspersed with close-ups of plants or stark images of the sky’s colors and jarring interludes when motorized vehicles interrupt the scenery. Different lighting conditions and times of day stirred together, as do clear and hazy images. By contrast, IT is a more hermetic experience, in which we watch a set of shapes do a mysterious dance in an abstraction of light, texture, and sound.

The installation negotiated nature’s expanse and the traces of humanity, whether remnant, extracted, or composed.

Fleming likes to tell a story of how he discovered an off-road vehicle area in the park that bore circular tire tracks. He hired an airplane to take aerial shots and showed one of the images to a Joshua Tree botanist. She marveled at how closely it resembled particle physics and sent him an image from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. “It was interesting because particle physics deals with cosmology and the origin of life,” Fleming mused in the exhibition catalog interview. “I appreciated the coincidence and subsequently decided to build the project around the idea of landscape, the language of the landscape, and its subconscious effects on the people who inhabited it. …

“I went to the desert to understand ‘the secret in the silence,’ but found it unintelligible,” he continues. “So I drew connections to the parts of the place that seemed related, such as the people, the evidence of people, and the patterns or cycles of the place. In this way, I could map the ‘silence’ without knowing what it was. It occurred to me that ‘the secret in the silence’ could be interpreted as letting go of the desire to understand in order to arrive closer to it.”

Edit Module
Art + Culture
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Gene Jr & The Family Spurs Gabriella Evaro's Creative Projects at Joshua Tree Music Festival

Desert native Gabriella Evaro, who planted roots in the artisan village of Joshua Tree with her mother and siblings as a young girl, returns to the Joshua Tree Music Festival with a new musical production.

The Last Internationale Bring Provocative Edge to Joshua Tree Music Festival

The Last Internationale, appearing at the Joshua Tree Music Festival, are a powerful trio of modern day musical revolutionaries that ride the cusp between hard rock and folk-protest music.

Songs From the Heart

After decades of singing backup for such legends as Elvis Presley, Dionne Warwick, Marvin Gaye, The Righteous Brothers, and Tom Jones, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love — now 73 — is busier than ever.

Jane Lynch, The von Trapps, Igudesman & Joo Lead Picks for McCallum's 2015-16 Season

Mitch Gershenfeld’s successful track record in booking shows audiences love led him to establish “Mitch’s Picks” to showcase artists the public may not be familiar with appearing at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert.

Open Call Gives Greater Palm Springs Area Talent a Chance to Shine

Kaitlyn Farley knew music was her calling from a young age, but opportunities like the annual Open Call at the McCallum Theatre took that passion to another level.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

2014/15 Best of the Best

2014/15 Best of the Best

Palm Springs Life’s annual Best of the Best. Readers tell us who their choice is for the “Best of the Best” of the Coachella Valley in over 40 categories.
GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

Palm Springs Life's Women in Business

Palm Springs Life's Women in Business

Winner profiles will be highlighted in a special section in Palm Springs Life’s May 2014 issue. Nominate Your Top Women in Business!
Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest

Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest

Enter your “Cutest Pet” photo in the Pets on Parade 2015 Photo Contest. Online users will be able to like the Cutest Pet photos from six (6) categories.
Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Edit ModuleShow Tags