As an MFA student at the University of Florida, I studied graphic design in the context of tourism, visual culture, and place-based art. In March 2006, I exhibited an artist’s book (pictured above) in a small gallery installation design to facilitate reading. Read the Book, said large letters on a wall, and below the inscription stood a cafe table with tall chairs. Visitors to the show did read the book, browsing its 300 pages of interviews, personal narratives, photo montages, typographic samples, and critical analysis.
St. Augustine, Florida, the site where I spent several months touring, photographing, and collecting data, bills itself as the oldest city in the United States. Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed “near here” – as signs in the area often say – in 1513. Ostensibly, he and his crew were in search of the quasi-mythical Fountain of Youth. The city’s tourist industry pays homage to its Spanish legacy in a variety of ways, many of which are visible on the contemporary landscape. Architecture, monuments, city planning, and commercial structures and signage all point to the city’s Spanish past. Near Here: Locating History in St. Augustine’s Tourist Landscapes represents the culmination of my M.F.A. research, exploring multi-vocal narratives and their role in visual mythologies of place.