Charity Vargas Statement

Artist Statement
About the Presidio

Since 1988 the Federal Government through its Base Realignment and Closure program (BRAC) closed 22 of California’s military installations, almost a quarter of base closures nationwide. The government sold the land to municipalities and developers. Former bases have been redeveloped into suburban housing tracts, business parks, airports, and colleges; others sit vacant and polluted awaiting reuse.

Arguably the most successful of these transformations is the Presidio of San Francisco. A military post for over 200 years, it sits on 1480 acres of the most beautiful land in the Bay Area. Always an open base, it has “belonged” to the people of San Francisco since it’s founding.

In 1998 when the US Army deemed it excess to needs it was to be added to Golden Gate National Recreation Area as part of a 1972 law establishing the largest urban national park. But in 1994 Congress wanted to sell the land to developers. After a tough battle, the Presidio was transferred to the National Park Service, but the deal meant that the park would receive limited federal funding and none at all after 2012. It would have to fund itself through the lease of its historic buildings.

After years of planning and toxic clean up, the pace of transformation is accelerating. Since 2003 I have photographed this place and its changes. It is a complex landscape that feels familiar to me. I was raised in equal parts on an Air Force base near Canada, in the foothills of Sierra Nevada Mountains surrounded by incense cedars and snow, and still later in the suburbs - surrounded by little.

The forests and military industrial architecture here are not at odds to me. Contrarily nature thrives alongside structures modified over many years for many uses. Some wait vacant on polluted grounds, still there is a resilience that permeates the land and these buildings. There is a feeling of tamed wildness about it, a secret garden in our city, in constant change, quiet, hopeful and continuing.

Process Statement
Images are created using a Canon 5D digital camera. Prints are Ink Jet UltraChrome K3 prints on Hahnemühle FineArt Pearl 285 gsm archival paper and matted on Nielsen Bainbridge Artcare Alpharag.

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