Introduction to Making the Mountain IX by Rebecca Aronauer

Thank you for coming to Making the Mountain. I’m Rebecca Aronauer, the host and founder of the event. But I don’t do this event alone. It wouldn’t be happening without the help of Lighthouse, Dan, Amber, and Corey.

So what do I do? I send emails. I worry. I recruit artists to speak. If you’ve come to Making the Mountain before, you know that I have a loose definition of artist. To me, an artist is anyone doing something with intention.

But talking with tonight’s speakers ahead of the event, I realize I could define artist another way. An artist sees something that the rest of us miss. And it’s not enough to have a kind of x-ray vision. What makes someone an artist is the ability to make the things they see—whether it’s a feeling, a flavor, or a vision—come to life for the rest of us.

Tonight’s presenters all do that. They see things in film, in clothes, and on the street that most of us miss. Alexandre, Lou, and Jolt have something else in common: their work comes from, or works against, the made world. Like all artists, they have an aesthetic and a point-of-view. But the materials they use to express those things are not entirely in their control.

Alexandre is currently working on a documentary on the shower scene in Psycho. To us, it’s a two-minute scene where Janet Leigh is murdered. To Alexandre, that moment in the shower is everything. It explains all of Hitchcock—his technical prowess, his passions, and his fears. That scene has to be the centerpiece of his film. He is, after all, making a documentary about it. But it’s a fixed point. He can’t change that scene; he can only create around it.

Lou, the co-founder of Vaux Vintage, sees what the laziest of dressers don’t want to admit: that clothes are a form of everyday self-expression. What we wear isn’t necessarily who we are, but it is how people see us. As a costume designer and vintage shop owner, she has developed her own fashion sense. But she doesn’t make clothes to fit her aesthetic. She finds her style in clothes someone else has designed and a stranger has abandoned.

Jolt also depends on the made world. Graffiti doesn’t exist in a vacuum. And the best graffiti artists use placement as a way to announce themselves to the world. But the nature of graffiti makes that announcement short-lived. The city is always ready to buff over a graffiti artist’s declaration of self.

Jolt makes work knowing it will disappear, and he sees a certain beauty in a buff mark. It’s a sign that someone has created something.

I think most artists experience that buff mark of sorts. Usually, it’s not so literal as someone painting over their work. But in the face of benevolent indifference, it can be hard to remember—or to believe—that even the effort of creation has its own power.

Tonight is all about celebrating that effort. So let’s go behind the buff mark, starting with Alexandre.