Emiliano Ponzi Goes West for The New Yorker
The scale of America is often misunderstood. It’s not until non-Americans attempt to span the country, or you lay a map of the US over other countries, that the sheer size of 48 contiguous states make sense (not to mention Alaska’s yawning enormity). When Emiliano Ponzi embarked on a trip through the American west, he gave himself nearly two weeks to cover a massive but relatively small corridor of the country. Throughout those 12 days, he illustrated what he saw, handing his work over to The New Yorker who shared it via their Instagram. “Drawing is the most ancient way to represent the world and I wanted to be a witness to Western America using just my drawing tools,” Emiliano says. “Visiting places and meeting new people can make us feel smaller or bigger, speechless or emotional. Simply different. Visiting new places is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. To do that, we have to leave our biases at home and see things for what they really are.”
Throughout his journey, Emiliano captioned each of the moments with his impressions of the experience, watching where time and cultures have compressed and expanded over time. After leaving Los Vegas he made his way to Antelope Canyon, where he was confronted with the Native proverb that says: “You cannot see the future with tears in your eyes.”
“Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon on Navajo land in Arizona. During the visit, a Navajo man in traditional clothes entertained us with a hoop dance,” Emiliano tells it. “The music came from an iPhone and I glimpsed the Nike shorts he had under the straw skirt. I saw the connection between the past and the present and wondered what the future holds for these people who are keeping their traditions alive.”
Continuing out through the desert, the sheer size and heat of the place became oppressive and worked its way into Emiliano’s work and experience. He began to see gas stations as oases, if for no other feature than to break up the monotony. “No phone service for hundreds of miles, no shaded areas, no food or water during the long rides from one destination to another,” says Emiliano. “I found these modern oases during my journey. They were a vector of hope, a sign of civilization in that specific context—things you barely notice walking along the street in everyday life.”
Emiliano continued his journey through the desert into Palm Springs, and beyond into Monterey, Big Sur, and Los Angeles. Check out everything on The New Yorker’s art Instagram.