In the winter of 1997 I arrived in Baltimore to begin teaching at The University of Towson on a teacher exchange programme with Jim Paulsen, who was in turn teaching at the University of Central Lancashire.
Jim had done a number of exchanges in the past so was familiar with our way of teaching. Jim was used to cold, but cold and damp and windy proved challenging. Coal fires that are not just for decoration were a shock as was what Jim called 'thick' water. My water supply comes from a spring that gets a bit peaty in heavy rain and the winter of 1997 was a wet one!
On the other hand I moved into relative luxury in a nice area of Baltimore; Pikesville. What came as a shock was how different America is, as foreign as any none English speaking country. Good point. I went to the Motor Authority to get tags for my car, a Dodge Daytona. Whilst there I decided I might as well book an appointment for my driving test. So, I filled in the application form, got it checked. paid my fee and was sent to do my multi-choice questionnaire. I had no knowledge of the road code but still past the test. Then I was told to bring my car to the back of the building and I was doing the practical. This was a doddle as it involved driving around a pretend road around the car park. Still to get your car tagged and do your road test in an afternoon was pretty impressive. Bad point. Areas of the Baltimore you are warned not to drive through and the number of shootings. In 1997 these had dropped to only 365 for the year, something the TV news commented on as being particularly low, due to a new law allowing only one gun purchase a month.
I was able to travel to the Badlands of South Dakota as I had always been interested in Dee Brown's books outlining the conflicts between Indians and settlers. Wounded Knee was my destination. Travelling across the US I was fascinated by these huge signs advertising truck stops. Sometimes they started 50 miles from the cafe and were as long and high as the trucks I was passing. I made a few sculptures based on this journey. There was something about the journeys and the distances that was unlike driving in Europe. In Rapid City I met a sculpture who's garden looked north over North Dakota. He pointed out a Bute that was 25 miles distant. A further one that was 50 miles and in the far distance another that was 75 miles away. He took me on the prairie where you could still see the ruts of the wagon trains that past by over 150 years ago. This is a country about size and scale.
All the stuff above is to give a flavour of the differences between our nations and what informs how you experience the world.
The works on display show quite different approaches to creating sculpture, yet I feel there are things about the works that identify them as being made by UK artists or US artists
Treasurer. Yorkshire Sculpture Group