“Permanent” is one adjective I associate with my dry stone constructions. When I was asked to make a temporary installation on the grounds of the Shelburne Museum for the upcoming “Eyes on the Land” exhibition, some very different affiliations sprang to mind. And so, as I became acquainted with the Vermont Land Trust properties in the Mettawee Valley that I was partnered with for the show, I sought out examples of land formation and land use that might be described as “short term”.
Geologically speaking, the times of glaciation over the Mettawee valley were brief, but they left a strong impression. Fine sediments and small stones trapped in mile-high rivers of ice eventually came to rest on the valley floor, creating a rich soil and a bumper crop of stones. Beginning in the 18th century, farming took hold on the bottomlands and continues to this day. Agricultural methods evolve. The hay barns of yesteryear are replaced with hoop barns, stone walls with electric fence. “Temporary” is built into our “contemporary” lives.
Change is uncomfortable and stimulating at the same time. To try something new in my art making is as exciting as it is uncertain. There is whimsy in the notion of returning the stones of the Mettawee valley to the sky from where they once fell. My task has been to follow that vision, of loose stones suspended overhead, back through my imagination to the beginning of constructing a sculpture. Stone Clouds would need a suspension system. For the required components I looked to hoop barns and fence wire. To shape the collection of stones into clouds, I would need cloud-shaped containers. For that, wire cages would need to be woven around interim styrofoam forms.
The components have been collected. Concept materialization has begun in the studio. This week, the videographer, Jay Stearns , has been here to document the process. My work, and that of five other artists, will be included in his video to be screened during the Eyes on the Land exhibition, opening October 3, at Shelburne Museum’s Pizzagalli center.
Stone Clouds is funded, in part, by a grant from the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.