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Solo Exhibition

From February 01, 2021 to February 28, 2021

Desert Dweller

Daniel Skwarna

© Daniel Skwarna, winner of February 2021 Solo Exhibition


Artist Statement

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Slab City sits on the leftover infrastructure of Camp Dunlap, a WWII marine base activated in 1942 as a training camp for action in North Africa. The base also provided training areas for army troops under General Patton, a bombing range for planes from a nearby Marine Air Station, and a staging area for smaller Marine groups. It was deactivated in 1945. When the land was returned to the State, only the concrete slab foundations remained to float on the shifting sands. Slabbers have been shifting with these sand for decades; building, scrapping, repurposing, surviving, dying. They’re a motley crew, as varied as anywhere else. The year-round population is modest. Roughy fifty stay through July and August when temperatures are mercurial and even rattlesnakes seek the shade of campers. Their ability to endure inhuman conditions year after year is matched only by a shared distaste for the gridded boiler plate of city life. Many are on SSI, SSDI, or just plain broke. Modern American pioneers, claiming their slab and declaring themselves master. A free range society of feral folks occupying a chunk of desert in Southern California. Slabbers have different reasons for coming here and staying. Many are transient, coming for the warmth in winter. Some seek anonymity, others to forego the rat race. Veterans with PTSD neighbour hippies, meth heads, and Oxycontin addicts. Survivalists and religious men come to the desert to test themselves as their forefathers have for millennia. Felons hide deep in the Slabs under cover of creosote to evade the authorities. Average American families that never recovered from the Great Recession or want to stretch their retirement funds. Artists, musicians, philosophers. Few of them enjoy the conveniences we take for granted. There is no free drinkable water, no tap to turn. Slabbers can filter the East High Line canal, brown with farm runoff, or take from the faster moving Coachella Canal feeding Palm Springs and Los Angeles. Otherwise, you pay local suppliers. Garbage is either kept by Slabbers (for future reuse) or dumped for lack of municipal pick- up. Solar panels and deep cycle batteries provide power to run fans and swamp coolers in the hottest months. Sanitation varies from rvs to composting toilets and gopher holes. To each his own. There is a cost to living free.

Curator: Sandrine Hermand-Grisel, Founder & Editor All About Photo


Desert Dweller

Biography

Daniel Skwarna is a Toronto- based documentary and editorial photographer.
He has worked in the United States, Iceland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Cuba, Israel and the West Bank, Turkey, Greece, France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Serbia Croatia, Bosnia & Hercegovina, Kosovo, Slovakia, Sarajevo, Poland, and Russia.

Daniel attended the University of Toronto and holds a degree in History, Fine Art History, and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. He is currently pursuing personal projects in the Southwestern United States.