Flora Kao: Homestead

With the project Flora Kao: Homestead, artist Flora Kao highlights the poignant histories of the deserted shacks that dot the Mojave Desert, remnants of America’s most recent wave of manifest destiny. By virtue of the Small Tract Act of 1938, homesteaders could claim five acres of expendable public land, prompting a mid-century land rush by Los Angelenos into the neighboring desert. The majority of these structures were eventually abandoned due to the harshness of desert living. Focusing on a prefabricated cabin standing on the verge of collapse in Wonder Valley, Kao explores human relationship with respect to landscape, mapping, and notions of home and placelessness.

Through life-size rubbings of each side of the dilapidated shack’s four walls, Kao captures the homestead at a specific moment in its decay. Suspended vertically in the PMCA’s Project Room, the canvas rubbings envelop the viewer in fields of gestural black marks that echo the original structure’s form and texture. Mapping absence and presence, Homestead offers the viewer a visceral encounter with erasure and accumulation, inviting meditation on the ease and inevitability of loss in a land of new beginnings and deferred dreams.

Flora Kao: Homestead is organized by the Pasadena Museum of California Art. Kao is a recipient of an ARC grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation.