Thoughts on Romance from the Road by Victoria Crayhon

Issue 19

Thoughts on Romance from the Road is an ongoing project that uses photography to document my text interventions on roadside marquee signs. The work addresses the effect of media and technology upon human desire. It positions the act of driving, as well as exposure to advertising media while doing so, as its own form of entertainment and consumption within contemporary culture.

I place phrases on movie or motel marquee signs, many of which I find through research but also in the course of my frequent long distance travel by car. I use my own sign letters, installing them and videotaping the placing of the phrases using a mechanical hand (installation device) and/or ladder and leaving the scene with the letters intact upon the sign. Afterward I make my photograph of the finished sign from the sidewalk or roadside, shooting from the vantage point of the driver or pedestrian. I use a large format camera and make large-scale color prints as documents of the sign in its environment. The photograph becomes the sole remnant of the project as the signs inevitably disappear or are taken down.

In its brief existence, each sign installation is read by an audience comprised mostly of people in cars or by roadside foot traffic. The experience of the viewer seeing the work in the context of the outside world of roads, signs and billboards is important to me. I am interested in viewers encountering my work in spaces they expect to see advertising or propaganda. This is the third project I have done which addresses this concept.

The text phrases are the voice of an individual, deliberately personal yet sounding mysteriously familiar through the fragmented language used within the spectacle of advertising. I use language that references aspirations toward contentment and fulfillment linked to promises of desire and romance provided by the realm of commodity and entertainment. My texts are formulated to read as regurgitations of that, as though they are public diary entries pertaining to banal realities of self and relationships based on comparison with an ideal.

Whether or not an altered sign lasts out in the world for a period of time longer than a few days depends upon who owns the property where each sign is located. Whenever possible I obtain permission if I can locate a property owner, which I usually can. If I cannot do so I will most likely use it anyway, knowing that the installation could be more short-lived than in the opposite case. But I never know precisely what will happen or how long the installations will remain intact.

Victoria Crayhon is a Providence, RI based artist. She is a photography professor at UMass Dartmouth.
To view more of Victoria's work, please visit her website.

  Untitled, Las Vegas NV 2009 

Untitled, Las Vegas NV 2009 

  Untitled I, Lincoln RI 2001 

Untitled I, Lincoln RI 2001 

  Untitled, Fairhaven MA 2001 

Untitled, Fairhaven MA 2001 

  Untitled II, Lincoln RI 2006 

Untitled II, Lincoln RI 2006 

  Untitled III, Providence RI 2005 

Untitled III, Providence RI 2005 

  Untitled II, Providence RI 2005 

Untitled II, Providence RI 2005 

  Untitled I, Providence RI 2006 

Untitled I, Providence RI 2006 

  Untitled, Fitchburg MA 2009 

Untitled, Fitchburg MA 2009 

  Untitled, Houston TX 2005 

Untitled, Houston TX 2005 

  Untitled, Rte. 146 MA 2001 

Untitled, Rte. 146 MA 2001 

  Columbus Theater I, Providence RI 2007 

Columbus Theater I, Providence RI 2007 

  Columbus Theater II, Providence RI 2007 

Columbus Theater II, Providence RI 2007 

  View of Installation, Las Vegas NV 2009 

View of Installation, Las Vegas NV 2009 

  View of Installation, Lincoln RI 2006 

View of Installation, Lincoln RI 2006 

  Untitled, Fitchburg MA 2009 

Untitled, Fitchburg MA 2009 

  Untitled III, Providence RI 2008 

Untitled III, Providence RI 2008 

  Untitled, East Greenwich RI 2010 

Untitled, East Greenwich RI 2010