OUTSTANDING IN THE FIELD
Intro by Patrick Trefz Photographs by Patrick Trefz & Peter Hinson
Santa Cruz Native Jim Denevan creates temporary drawings on sand, earth, and ice that are eventually erased by waves and weather. These drawings range in scale from smaller beach compositions to large scale land works the size of a city.
Jim is also well known as the founder of the traveling culinary feast Outstanding in the Field.
Outstanding in the Field: the Movie tells the story of Jim Denevan. Denevan’s two leading passions – art and OITF dinners – entwine. Both enjoy order and geometry, require complete attention and focus to create, are something to be enjoyed by those present, are ephemeral, and naturally and gracefully disappearing.
The film story follows Denevan’s six-month roam across America (in a streamlined 1953 bus) knitting together local farmers and chefs, foods and spirits, and the locals themselves. The film captures the experiences of Denevan through the 10th anniversary tour of OITF. The recipe requires, in each town, Denevan finding a perfect location, creating an artful long table to accommodate guests, coordination with farmers and chefs, and, when time, creating a monumental land art installation to be enjoyed by OITF dinner guests and/or the community.
Denevan’s passion for the bonding experience of dining at a long table comes from a complex family history. Denevan lost his father to a brain tumor when young; memories of his father seated at the long table his father hand-crafted for the family of eleven bring warmth. His mother – a respected mathematician/professor – was left to raise nine children with two diagnosed schizophrenic. As the chaos of one brother’s battle with mental illness unfolded, Denevan found escape at the beach, drawing in the sand, calmed by creating geometric patterns. As a young adult, Denevan began to cook in a local restaurant and found a similar calming respite, and appreciation of nature, through conscious attention in the kitchen.
Through OITF, individuals and communities are woven together by the enigmatic Denevan. In the film, many individuals share their own stories. To further provide access to Denevan and share stories of the characters whose lives intersect through OITF, a nonlinear website is being created.
When is the tentative release date?
How did you meet Jim and become interested in what he was doing?
I had heard of Jim through the Santa Cruz surf scene for years before running into him one night at the “Poet and Patriot,” a local bar. As we were talking, he let me in on his secret that he had been creating incredible large scale sand drawings on remote beaches up the coast for years without anyone’s knowledge. That was about 12-13 years ago… Jim’s monumental freehand drawings were like nothing I had ever seen before.
What inspired you to make a documentary about Jim and “Outstanding In The Field”?
Denevan is an outstanding character with multifaceted talents. He is a great surfer/skimboarder, artist, chef, visionary… Our working relationship began over 10 years ago when the Surfers’ Journal assigned me
to shoot Jim for a profile on him. Years later he was featured in my documentary “Thread” (2007), amongst other artists. Over the years we have collaborated on art shows all over the word. Last year we had a show in Berlin where we talked about the feature length documentary on him, and that it was about time, so i started last summer.
Where have you traveled so far to film this?
We have covered over 25 OITF events all across the nation during the 2013 summer tour. From Vancouver to Nebraska, New York to Massachusetts, Georgia to Arkansas and Texas back to California. Traveling on the big red bus, meeting chefs, farmers, artisans, filming Jim creating giant pieces of land art. One in particular stands out near Toronto — the farmer always wanted to be an artist and was so inspired by Jim’s work that he let him use his fields to burn and carve a huge land-art piece.