The American West has a difficult to define appeal, with something in the space drawing people to it since the arrival of colonizers in the area. In the early years of the United States, men headed west in search of new land, and adventure. Something about this wide open space has called to people for generations, driving people to pack their bags and travel west, some with more respect for the land and its inhabitants than others.
“Greetings from Calzona” is a project that seeks to imagine Calzona as the destination of one of these journeys westward. In the beginning of the 1900’s people began taking vacations to the American West thanks to the establishment of major highways such as Route 66. Residents of the western United States saw this as a business opportunity, and began opening hotels, rest stops, restaurants, and more, catering to the influx of travelers. Tourist material viewed the west with this same rose colored lens that earlier travelers had, making the area seem like an ideal destination with an effervescent appeal. However, the tourist boom paid little respect to the people who already lived there. Native American culture was commodified to sell for profit to tourists. Land was turned into consumer areas with little regard to who owned it.
My project attempts to take this piece of essentially empty land in the desert and imagine it as a tourist destination by creating tourism materials. I decided to model my postcard after the vintage greeting cards because Calzona, like much of the desert feels to me like it is stuck in time. When driving through the west you can see the remnants of the tourist boom and the heyday of Route 66. The idea of taking a piece of land and turning it into a destination feels very similar to what occurred in the history of this portion of the country. The decision to use real pictures of the mostly empty Calzona area rather than creating a imagery filled with objects speak to the unknown appeal of the west, that even though much of it is empty space something still draws people in.
“For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go where you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar’s gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is simply where you go.” – Robert Penn Warren