Why did someone put the sun symbol of the Zia people that’s used on New Mexico’s state flag on a utility box in Tennessee? Maybe they’re from New Mexico and wanted a little touch of home. Maybe they’re fans of Breaking Bad. Maybe they just like the symbol and wanted to brighten up the box a little. Maybe it’s a symbol of the Quartering of the Universe into Active and Passive Principles. Maybe they did it for the same reason Wallace Stevens put a jar on a hill in Tennessee, although he doesn’t really say why he did it, and he’s simply wrong when he says it was “Like nothing else in Tennessee” because we had jars long before some Yankee came tromping through here on his way to Key West and decided to litter, but that’s another story.
Maybe the answer is, all of the above.
Maybe the reason I like art, or one reason, is it fires off completely unexpected thoughts, like this: One summer I worked for a temp agency and got sent around to various job sites. At one place I put together the display stands you see in grocery stores. They’re also called “end caps”. The supervisor told us the stands we were putting together would be shipped out all over the country, and I thought it was interesting that something I helped make would be used by strangers so far away. I felt a sense of connection that made the mundane job and dealing with the supervisor who was a big jerk a little easier.
The utility box’s purpose is to create connections. It was made by someone in another place. Its placement changed the landscape. And then someone decided to paint the sun symbol on it, to change it from a standard, utilitarian object to something with deeper meaning–and larger connections.