I was stunned when I read Jeremy Miller’s “The Colonization of Kern County,” Jan Feb 2011, Orion. I spent my childhood years growing up on an oil lease 6 miles outside of Taft in Kern County. My father was an engineer for Honolulu Oil Corp. Miller writes of the grim environmental and economic consequences of steam extraction, beginning in the mid 60’s, of heavy crude oil in my home county and the impact on my hometown. While I was not really surprised, there was a part of me that was shocked and grieved. I walked around for several days at some level deeply disturbed that the land I had grown up on was heavily polluted and somehow scarred.
I am a weaver, and I turned to my art to help myself re-establish a lost sense of place. The weaving that I created is a re-visioning of the territory of my childhood, which I left behind in the early 1960’s.
For me, there was an up side to being a kid in the oil fields. It was big, wide-open country, a good place to be outdoors, roam the hills on my own and with my friends, ride my bike, and go rabbit hunting with my dad occasionally. This blanket is my answer to the current environmental disaster in the oilfields of my home. It is a map of the lease, our house, our neighbors, the shops, the ice house, the bunk house, the roads, the trails, the cliff where we played, the ditch with the pipes over it, the dust, the resident animals. It is not a denial but a remembrance.