I’ve been thinking a lot lately about land/environmental art, and how it could be a positive force in our world. I’ve written a short outline to propose a possibility. What do you think it would take to make it happen?
Art in the Margins: A program for the creation of visual art on marginal Vermont lands.
Since colonial times, Vermont’s rural landscape has been an incubator for innovation. Wilderness homesteading, hydro-powered family industries, sheep raising and dairy farming, all shaped the landscape of their respective eras in significant ways. Sediment-filled millponds and gnarled old apple trees are subtle reminders to us, today, of ourforbearer ’s ingenuity in partnering with the land. Artists will be commissioned to perform works in transitional spaces, areas between working landscapes and wilderness; fringe places. The works will be viewable from primary roadways but will only be accessible, if at all, from secondary roads. The works will be visually arresting curiosities; minor spectacles to focus attention on otherwise generally ignored spaces. The goal is to visually enliven and stimulate interest in the state’s unsung borderlands. By bring attention to these areas, residents and visitors alike will be encouraged to leave the main roads and explore Vermont’s rich scenic and cultural diversity.
In keeping with rural traditions, materials to be used in “Art in the Margins” will be locally sourced and biodegradable. Stockpiles of raw materials are a ubiquitous feature of Vermont’s working landscape. Among those commonly appearing are mulch hay, wood chips, quarry slag and pulpwood. Through the process of art making they will be uniquely redirected and re-purposed . Other useful materials may include waste-stream recapture or agricultural and forest byproducts. For instance, slab wood from a sawmill might be woven together into a large, blanket-like shape and draped over a hillside. An artist may choose to use on-site, “found,” materials. River flotsam such as scoured and bleached deadwood might be used to create a stream-side environment. A graphic artist might take a disused gravel pit as his or her canvas and rearrange its loose stone into a large-scale relief panel. Pruning or pollarding live vegetation may be an approach used to create a desired effect. Some works may be ephemeral, touching very lightly on the land, a mass planting of wildflowers, for instance.
After completion, the works will begin to slowly decompose. There will be no effort to maintain them in their original state. Over time, the art works will be transformed by natural degradation. In the process, new aspects to the works will emerge. Propagate and volunteer vegetation will grow. They will foster habitat for wildlife such as birds, bats, reptiles and insects.
It’s the intent of “Art in the Margins” to both honor and continue the partnership Vermonters have with their environs. Through this wide ranging, art making endeavor, artists and local community members will make direct and positive connections. The works will stimulate dialogue about art’s place in the world and in our lives.
Pictured above is “Birch Palm” by students in one of my environmental art workshops. Finland 2006