Paula Rebsom

When I can’t be here, I go there.

In the summer of 2006 I constructed a 19-foot tall howling coyote in the backyard of a home I was renting a room in. It was raised with the help of several brave friends on a night when their just happened to be a full moon.

Full Artist Statement

When I can’t be Here, I go there.

30 miles East of my hometown in North Dakota along I-94 is a large-scale metal sculpture of a flock of geese in flight. You can see hints of the sculpture, Geese in Flight, coming for miles as you roll over the open prairie. A ‘tourist trap’ with great intention: to get people off the interstate and onto the highway leading you to the small town of Regent. It is one of 7 large scale metal sculptures that you will encounter if travel down the highway, the vision of one man to help boost the economy of his shrinking hometown. We find these kinds of tourist attractions all over the US and beyond, visions of men and women obsessed with a particular purpose, consumed by their visions however small or grand they may be.

Feeling homesick, I decided to make my own private ‘tourist attraction’. I constructed a 19 foot tall howling coyote cutout in the backyard of the couples home that I had been invited to stay in while I settled into Portland. It was both a romantic and naive attempt to see above and beyond the 12-foot hedges that surround their yard, which created a private oasis in the maze of homes and pavement that spread far out into the suburban wilderness. Like so many others, my vision took on a life of it’s own, reaching far beyond my expectations and consuming most of my daily thoughts. I found myself staring out of my bedroom window at the coyote, romanticizing about a relationship with nature and the ‘wild’ that is unattainable. It has been said that we fear most those creatures that reflect back to us what we both hate and love about ourselves. The coyote is a trickster, one of the few predatory animals to exist in the realm of the domestic and wild. They continually test our boundaries, and thrive in the most unlikely of circumstances.

The silhouettes of the coyote cutouts I made formed shadows that danced in the darkness creating what is defined as an ‘early blur’, a visual trick where we catch an outline or shadow of something we think we recognize and automatically fill in the missing pieces. Photographs, for me, operate in much the same manner, they are thought to ‘mirror’ our world back to us: informal snapshots, or a formal portrait, define us in that particular moment. How much of the image is truth and how much is imagined is up to each viewer to decipher.

When I can’t be here, I go there., is one small attempt of many to explore the many relationships that we form with ourselves and the environments in which we choose to settle in our attempts to connect and thrive within them.