From the canyons of San Juan County to the largest stage on earth
Out of the Blues
by Maggie Boyle Judi It is mid-March, 1932 and Alfred Frost and his brother Kent have been hiking the red and white striped canyons, crisp streambeds and sage covered desert floors of southeastern Utah for six days.
The brothers set off from Shirttail Junction, south of Blanding, on a hike to Hite through the Glen Canyon country, towards a visit with Art Chaffin, a friend who lived with his wife along the Colorado river.
Upon seeing the great Colorado after their arduous trek, Alf writes in his book, Rattlesnakes & Wild Horses, the following: “Such power, majesty, beauty- leaping, splashing, bubbling onward, always onward, sliding downward and away.”
Can you see that? Can you see in your mind’s eye, that majesty of the mighty Colorado River, crashing against the canyon walls?
Alf painted a picture with words that takes us back in time, to the Glen Canyon, a place that is extinct, something we can only experience now through the artful creations of Alf’s memory and his words.
With the soul of a poet, the heart of an explorer, and an eye for beauty, Alfred Frost spent a long and eventful life in San Juan County. He had the ability to notice beauty and worth in things that others may have found to be ordinary or of little value.
Now, in 2015, it stands to reason that a part of Alf lives on in his posterity. Particularly, if not ironically, in the modern art of his grandson Jeff.
The name of Jeff Frost is exploding in the art world as interest in his “new” medium takes the art world by storm.
Jeff is a photographer who uses time lapse and stop-motion photography to create images that become video clips and ultimately films.
He calls it, “reverse light painting” and he accomplishes it by waving a camera around in front of lights and doing it over and over, until he gets thousands of images with which to “paint.”
What this means, Jeff explains in his recent TED talk (more on that later), is that “any light on the opposite side of my lens becomes a tool with which I can draw, whether it’s the sun or cities or the blinking LED lights in the server room of the world’s largest scientific experiment.”
What Jeff is talking about is an accomplishment of mammoth proportions. He was named one of the Best Photographers of 2014 by the American Society of Media Photographers.
In addition, Jeff’s spectacular art caught the eye of the biggest band in the world. Namely, U2.
Earlier this year, U2 contacted Jeff and asked him about providing the backdrop for their 2015 world tour, Innocence + Experience, by projecting his images on stage and onto a massive 90-foot screen above the band.
As a part of the commission, the band sent Jeff as an artist-in-residence to CERN, to gather more images for the show.
CERN is the home of the Large Hadron Collider, the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.
The goal of Frost, as the artist-in-residence, is simply to make artwork out of the biggest machine on earth. Jeff received unprecedented access to this facility to document technology in a “new light.”
And so, within the space of a few sentences, Jeff Frost has inhabited two of the most famous and scientifically-renowned spaces on earth.
And it all begins with a failure. After graduating from Monticello High School in 1996, Jeff left home in San Juan County headed for Los Angeles to become a rock star.
It was a dream he chased for ten years before turning back to his artful nature and the camera.
He says of his transition, “The first step I had to take in order to create… was to fail as a rock star.
“People say, ‘Oh you didn’t fail’, and I say, “Yes I did! Don’t take that failure away from me, I had to work very hard for it.’
“And I don’t even think about failure in the same way anymore, I don’t view it as a negative. Oddly enough, now I work with actual rock stars.”
So Jeff went to work for the biggest concert tour in the world. His films are shown as the band plays songs from their award-winning albums.
The films and photographs feature his unique medium of time and light as he chases down wildfires, riots, the stars, abandoned houses he finds in San Juan County and the California desert, and the circuit boards and inner workings of CERN.
He says, “Some of the content was adapted from my art films, which have been passed around a bit. In fact, this is how the band found me: purely by word of mouth. So don’t let someone tell you it’s all about who you know. Who you know trails behind what you do.”
And what Jeff does, extends from his childhood.
Jeff suggests that maybe his childhood spent hiking the canyons of southern Utah with his Grandpa Alf is what led him to his current art form.
“In troubled personal times, I found myself going out the deserts poking around in abandoned houses, and it took me a little while but eventually I put two and two together and I realized, “Oh, this is like when I explored the desert with my Grandpa Alf…”.
The artist, explorer, and wanderer that was Alfred Frost has manifested itself again in the soul of Jeff’s modern art.
Jeff stresses that growing up in Monticello was not always a picture perfect photograph for the artist.
He says, “Every day of high school was a war. The pressure to conform was unbelievable and often cruel.”
Now as a huge success, he feels deeply motivated to share this story in the hopes that it will be a beacon of hope to someone having the same experiences he did 20 years ago.
Jeff wants to say to kids who find themselves in a dark and lonely place, “There’s a way out. There’s a whole life that exists beyond this; it will make all of this seem silly one day.
“You just have to make it through. Keep going, find something to hold onto. Art, science, music, building, whatever you’re into. Take all your anger and direct it towards getting really good at your passion.”
Grandpa Alf was Jeff’s beacon of light. Jeff recalls of those difficult times, “Fortunately I had incredibly supportive parents who remained strong when they didn’t understand, or even like, what I was doing musically or artistically.
“I had a Grandpa who never spoke a single word of judgment to me, and who took me hiking and camping constantly.
“I had my scout troop. We had amazing times getting into trouble at group camps and with whom I enjoyed long hikes down Dark Canyon. I had incredible landscapes with some of the most beautiful scenery in the cosmos waiting to be discovered.
“Most importantly, aside from art, I had a few misfit friends who banded together. One of them is Brooke DeGraw, who pointed out that despite the extensive difficulties I experienced growing up in Monticello, I also had a childhood that very few people in this world get to experience.
“I have come to agree with her. I appreciate the work ethic instilled by my Dad, I love the land, and I have many outdoor skills that people in Los Angeles can barely comprehend.”
Maybe Bono, the lead singer for U2, said it best.
When he first met the band, Jeff says, “I’m really not the type to get star struck, but when Bono came up to me in my first creative meeting with the band and said (in front of everyone), ‘Jeff, we’ve become fans of your work,’ I heard myself say in awkward slow motion, ‘I’ve been listening to you since I was a kid!’
“I probably sounded like a kid. Bono didn’t miss a beat and replied, ‘Well, my how you’ve grown.’”
Jeff’s parents, Jeff and Denice Frost, attended a U2 concert in Los Angeles soon after the current tour began. Denice reports that she couldn’t help but cry as they sat and watched the show with tens of thousands of adoring fans.
“There was Jeff’s work, flashed on a massive screen!” Denice explains. “His images were shown while U2 played their most famous songs, Where the Streets Have No Name and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. It was overwhelming! He has worked so hard!”
It is reported that even Bono was caught up with Jeff’s work during a recent concert. After finishing a song that included Frost’s images on the massive screen, Bono said, “Beautiful, Jeff Frost, beautiful!”
On November 13, when terrorists destroyed the lives of 130 innocent people, Jeff was with the band in Paris, setting up for a concert scheduled for the following day.
The concert was delayed until December 7, when U2 performed before a large crowd in Paris in a concert that was broadcast by HBO.
The event featured U2, the world’s greatest rock band; Eagles of Death Metal, the band that was playing in the Bataclan Concert Hall where 89 people were killed; and Jeff Frost, the San Juan County photographer whose work is inspiring millions.
It’s true, the young man who grew up in the canyons and farmland of San Juan county has grown into an artist who uses his genius to bring awareness to subjects ranging from wildfires to riots, and from the enhancement of awesome music to the blinking lights of scientific discoveries.
In much the same way that time and light have carved the canyon walls of Alf’s old stomping grounds, in the same way that Alf had a poet’s soul and an explorers heart, Jeff Frost uses his passionate artistic soul, time and light to carve the walls of his own unique perspective.
It is a perspective that speaks to who we are, and perhaps to who and what we are becoming.
After his work at CERN, Jeff was invited back to give a TED talk. TED stands for (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and is a global set of conferences run under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading”. TED talks have become one the most popular podcasts on the internet.
His speech can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4KMN9W4pRs )
There is not enough room in this column for me to tell you all the amazing things Jeff is involved in.
For more information on the spectacular creations of Jeff Frost, check out the links below.
In addition, a simple Google search or visit to Vimeo.com also produces many of Jeff’s beautiful images.
Circle of Abstract Ritual: www.vimeo.com/frostjeff/coar