Kaari Upson


I had just returned from an abandoned residential lot in San Bernadino where I spent months digging, pouring, and peeling. The cast behind me—an underbelly of latex, paint, and urethane—was poured into a handmade mold of a curved, double staircase that I dug into the soil. The cast is draped across a metal frame, inverted, so that the brittle staircase crust now faces up. A shitty McMansion once stood on that San Bernadino lot. The dirt stairs now stand, just as the stairs within that mansion once stood. This site has a history of natural trauma, absent residents, gossip, crime, fire, and constant transformation, which has become the catalyst for a large body of work. The stories, memories, and photographs that comprise my understanding and misunderstanding of this site compels repeated visits and revisions, and an incessant sifting for meaning.

On this day, I was working with a tennis shoe. The shoe was pulled from the background of a photograph taken in the house before it burned down. In the photograph it is shown tossed across the landing at the top of the stairs. The shoe is a substitute, a likeness, a container, and a measurement. It has recently resurfaced within my studio as cast wax.