Don’t Drive Past the Gas Station

Diana Writes
5 min readMar 2, 2021
Courtesy of Flicker byThomas Hanks inspired by Ed Rusca’s photo

In the video Ed Ruscha: Building and Word, Jim Ganzer says “It looked like anybody could have done that if they had their eyes open.” Ed Ruscha, a famous artist for nearly a century, took photos of a series of gas stations in the 1960s. He captured those photos and created a booklet. A diary concept. Many people were intrigued and bought this booklet of Ruscha’s. Notice the irony in this situation. Jim Ganzer addresses the idea that anyone could have done what Ed Ruscha did, had they been more observant and noticed the little things around them.

Dazzled by this idea, I understood what makes Ed Ruscha stand out as an artist. He sees the world for what it is. He stops to take a look at the bigger picture and showcases it through photography and artwork. The difference between the millions of Americans that passed by the same gas stations Ed Ruscha passed, is that he stopped to take a photo. He saw the opportunity to create art from what everyone else dismissed as ordinary. This concept of rushing past life and not paying attention to the little details is relevant in today’s society.

I personally struggle with living in the present and focusing on the current world around me. With technology consuming our lives, I find my eyes locked on my screen, aimlessly scrolling through my phone. This morning, I poured myself cereal and ate it while watching a movie on my device. My eyes wandered towards the cereal box in my hand and noticed the crossword placed on the cardboard box. Instantly, I thought back to when this cardboard cereal box used to entertain me during breakfast without technology getting in the way. Learning about Ed Ruscha’s methods as an artist disrupted my thoughts and made me realize I am just like all those Americans who drove past the gas stations that Ruscha captured in his photos.

The struggle to find meaning in what is considered normal is easier when you keep your eyes open. We’ve adapted a habit of cutting off the world by placing blinders on–preventing the view of an entire image in front of us.

I walk my dog almost every day on the same path. Day by day, I walk past the same suburban homes. My gaze locked straight ahead waiting to reach the end of our excursion. Rarely do I stop to look around at my surroundings. When I do, my eyes shift directly towards my phone to check for notifications. One Tuesday afternoon I headed for my usual walk with my dog but this time I forgot my phone. Whenever my dog stopped to sniff around, I glanced at the neighborhood around me. I noticed the red rustic truck with orange fire flames across its doors. I noticed this enormous lemon tree overflowing with an abundance of bright, yellow, lemons. Beside the tree a chair stood holding a basket filled with these ripe, juicy, lemons and a sign that said “When life gives you free lemons, make lemonade.” Immediately, I thought back to how I must have walked past this basket of lemons over a dozen times and not once did I notice its existence.

These strangers were offering their delicious lemons for any person that walked by. Hesitant at first, I grabbed two of the free lemons and headed home. Life handed me lemons and I made lemonade. All those days I passed by the lemon basket, with my blinders on, never noticing the little unique attributes about my life. Since that Tuesday, I’ve made it a habit to turn off my phone when I head for my walk.

Artists like Ruscha, remind us that we have the power to create something out of the ordinary, even though we may see no value in the things that make up our everyday lives. Don’t walk past the free lemons. Stop, and take a couple home. Don’t drive past the gas station. Stop, and give it a worthy glance.

Before Revision:

In the video Ed Ruscha: Building and Word, Jim Ganzer says, “It looked like anybody could have done that if they had their eyes open.” Ed Ruscha, a famous artist for nearly a century, took photos of a series of gas stations in the 1960s. He took those photos and created a booklet. A diary concept. Many people were intrigued and bought this booklet of Ruscha’s. Notice the irony in this situation. Jim Ganzer addresses the idea that anyone could have done what Ed Ruscha did, had they been more observant and noticed the little things around them.

Dazzled by this idea, I understood what makes Ed Ruscha stand out as an artist. He sees the world for what it is. He stops to take a look at the bigger picture and showcases it through photography and artwork. The difference between the millions of Americans that passed by the same gas stations Ed Ruscha passed is that he stopped to take a photo. He saw the opportunity to create art from what everyone else dismissed as ordinary. This concept of rushing past life and not paying attention to the little details is relevant in today’s society.

I personally struggle with living in the present and focusing on the current world around me. With technology consuming our lives, I find my eyes locked on my screen, aimlessly scrolling through my phone. This morning, I poured myself cereal and ate it while watching a movie on my device. My eyes wandered towards the cereal box in my hand and noticed the crossword placed on the cardboard box. Instantly, I thought back to when this cardboard cereal box used to entertain me during breakfast without technology getting in the way. Learning about Ed Ruscha’s methods as an artist disrupted my thoughts and made me realize I am just like all those Americans who drove past the gas stations that Ruscha captured in his photos.

Artists like Ruscha, remind us that we have the power to create something out of the ordinary, even though we may see no value in the things that make up our ordinary lives. Don’t drive past the gas station. Stop, and give it a worthy glance.

--

--