Artist's Statement

John Sanderson

At eight years old I lived with my father in Delaware. We often drove two hours back to New York City, where we lived previous, and where I eventually ended up again. We left in the early morning in order to beat traffic. After about an hour driving the sun would begin to rise in the east over the New Jersey landscape. I often slept most of the trip, but this time I awoke beside dad in the pick up truck. It was a particularly rich sunrise, and as I looked out from the window as he drove I spotted a most intriguing sight. Against the bright sky in the east, a bright red hot-air balloon rose up above the landscape, its translucence illuminated with the rising sun. Focused instead on his drive, dad missed the sight. Strangely enough, his missing out made it only more special -- amid the young life I was living was this confidential moment of solitude, wonder and mystery.

In the Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard analyzes the experience of architecture through literary and visual arts. He claims individuals respond to buildings depending on their size and context. These images attempt something similar. In reconciling the solidness of architecture with weather, I set out to explore how memory forms in moments of transition. My background in political science informs the approach to subject matter -- I am not only interested in the visuals of these places, but their greater historical and social significance.

Tracing railroad tracks for a concomitant project, Railroad Landscapes, has led me to many of the pictures composing National Character. From urban to rural, I have traveled extensively throughout the United States in search of images which describe the country’s collective history and shared values.

This work was created with large format film cameras during extensive road trips throughout the United States.