vestige |ˈvestij|
a trace of something that is disappearing or no longer exists: the last vestiges of colonialism.
• Biology: a part or organ of an organism that has become reduced or functionless in the course of evolution.
ORIGIN late Middle English: from French, from Latin vestigium ‘footprint.’

Italy is a country filled with footprints of the past. Etruscan walls, Roman aquaducts and roads, medieval towns and Renaissance palaces. America too has its share of vestigial remains, none so ancient as Italy, but they are a growing feature of our evolving landscape. As a young painter I argued that my attraction to these now empty remnants of America's once-thriving industrial past were driven by formal interests alone; but as I've reached my middle years I've become more and more fascinated by the narrative implications of my choice of subjects.

Some years ago I was musing with a student on the magnetism that abandoned places exert on us as painters. Is it just the vestiges of Romanticism, or perhaps some sublimated symbolic impulse hiding in these empty, decaying sites? My student offered another explanation. "It goes back to childhood," he said. "These are the places we sought out as children to play in; places where there are no adults." I haven't stopped thinking about that since. Play, as every child knows, is the most serious work there is.

 Frank Hobbs
 Abandoned Silo Along the Western Shore of Lake Trasimeno, Tuscany,  
oil on canvas, 18"x14," 2013

Frank Hobbs
 Factory Remnants, Tuscany, oil on canvas, 16"x19," 2013

 Frank Hobbs
 Abandoned Factory On the Road to Poppi, Tuscany,  
oil on canvas, 16"x19," 2013

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    Your post makes me think of this great website established by a British academic named Tim Edensor. Your emphasis on "play" and choice of the word "vestiges" takes the concept in new and exciting directions.


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