Middle Earthiness

Roger 1

It’s exactly the midpoint of my residency today. There are three two-week residents (two writers and an environmental artist) who are leaving tomorrow and this afternoon, a ‘mini-open-studio’ open to the public, featuring their work.  Wednesday, three new two-week residents arrive, and  Sunday, August 9 is our open house, with seven of us, and if you are near here, please come!

Roger 2

I wanted to show you Roger Rigorth’s work (and have his permission to do so).  He is from Germany, part of I-Park’s 2009 Environmental Art program, and basically he travels the world building these things, though he does have a studio practice as well.  Check out his website.  (‘Galerie’ shows studio work, ‘Symposien’ shows the worldwide environmental pieces). It’s been fascinating to watch this work happen, and I’ve really enjoyed our conversations as well, and I love the piece…all sorts of associations form in its presence.  It’s huge, too – the individual structures are over ten feet tall.  The weaving is done with thick rope made of ‘manila hemp’ – the same fiber I am using as a fine, fine pulp. It’s incredibly solidly built as it is now, and Roger says that when it gets wet (it rained last night) it will contract as it dries, just like the overbeaten paper fiber does (not as intensely!), and further strengthen the structure.

Roger in progress2

I am trying very hard not to make any comparisons with the speed of Roger’s pace and my seemingly incredibly slow sheetmaking, hand-shaping and casting…but when I first went to look at his work, three days into the residency, he already had the long, ball-topped pieces cut and shaped, and one of the weaving armatures finished.  (Incredibly to me, all the Environmental Art program folks make their work in a two-week period – though, if you are here during the main sessions, you will have your dinners provided so as to facilitate your work). So, OK, yesterday I worked out a schedule to adhere to in order to finish both my studio work and the (smallish) outdoor installation, if it’s approved.  So now I’d better get out there and at it.  But I’ve been very, very glad to have met Roger. He’s given me a lot to think about. Next, he heads back to Korea.


(Roger’s on-site transport.)

Luna Tune Two


So, I got so excited about finally seeing a Luna, and then heard from a friend from Vermont who said she used to see one every night in the summers, sometimes two.  Sure enough, there was a second Luna yesterday, hanging out all day on the wind chimes just outside the studio back door.  It was a different one; the first had some dings in his feathery antennae and this one didn’t.  This, I am comfortably thinking, is more abundance.  And I finally saw some eastern deer yesterday, two does in their sleek summer red-copper coats.  I came around a bend and surprised them. We stared at each other for two heartbeats and then they fled from my two-legged-ness, white tails waving.


During this production stage in my work, I take my walks in the early evening because I love the light at that time, and inevitably feel as if I’m inhabiting a Maxfield Parrish landscape each time I approach the house or the reflective pond; it’s the further abundance of tall tall oaks, maples, black walnut, beech trees, dwarfing anything human-made: utterly, absolutely peaceful.


(The house is two stories tall plus attic…see what I mean?)


(One of the residents, Jefferson, is out in the canoe in the upper right…)

Luna (no ticks)

Today, all day and late into the evening, I had a visitor. It was a dreary, rainy day, which was good because I am now in the laborious production stage.  We went for an early morning grocery run, and then I got to work. Even though there are double glass doors in the studio, each with a somewhat annoying (but probably necessary) big translucent white X in the middle, I had the lights on because it was so overcast.  At about noon, I looked up, and there he was, peering in at me.


It’s a Luna moth!  They’re huge, gorgeous things, and a rare sight.


When I was oh, about 9 or 10, and lived in a town in Ohio that was partly suburban development and partly old run-down family farms, I hung out for a summer with the neighborhood science geek, the skinny smart kid with a bad haircut, knobby knees and glasses held together with strapping tape.  We spent that whole summer obsessively searching for a Luna moth. He wanted to kill one with formaldehyde and stick a pin through it; he had a collection of mounted winged insect mummies containing just about every other species native to the area. Personally, I just really, really wanted to see one (OK, and hopefully scare it away before he got the jar on it).  It was an enchanting creature to me, and elusive enough to be a Quest. We stayed out very, very late almost every night (in a parental bow to science on his part, by the grace of alcoholic indifference on mine), running wild in the fields and woods, wading in creeks by moonlight, because Lunas only fly at night.  We never found one, but being out and free in the secret, scented dark had its own magic, a feeling which has never quite left  me.


I never did see a live Luna moth until today, just mounted ones in museums (where the kid probably ended up working).  My Luna stayed there all day and all night, barely moving, just seeming to stare at me.  I brought other residents to see him, we shot flash photos, and still he stayed. I left for dinner, turned the lights out, and he was there when I returned.  Finally, a little after midnight, I finished up; about twenty minutes later, I went back out of sheer curiosity, and he was gone.  He’ll only live for a few days, but I’m glad he escaped a pin. I’ve finally seen my Luna moth, and it was still enchanting.

Lunafull2 (I forgot to say: the day before, deep in the woods on top of a steep rocky ridge just before sunset, I saw a huge Great Horned Owl, also fascinating. But they eat Lunas).




One of the reasons I wanted to come here is that I-Park encourages and works with artists who engage in some way with nature (though not exclusively so).  This, I am quickly finding, makes for a swift empathy and connection with my fellow Fellows. I-Park also has a thriving and ambitious environmental art / land art program every other year (this year’s two focused sessions will begin just after I leave); but is also quite encouraging to its Enclave Fellows (that’s me) who wish to interact with the land.  It’s also broadly international and interdisciplinary. Some of the works are temporary, such as performance sites, and others stand the test of time.  This makes walking about the already fascinating 400 acres just delightful.  Here’s a small sampling of some of my favorite sites so far (I haven’t been on all the trails yet).  There’s no labeling, so I can’t give you artist’s names, only what I can remember from the initial two-hour tour. Yesterday, I went back over everything we were shown the day before , with camera, at my own pace (and for the moment, I’ll even spare you all the absolutely gorgeous fungi).

First, there is the work the I-Park folks have done and continue to do: creating the programs, building and outfitting the studios, maintaining excellent gardens, maintaining trails, planning, hauling in donated materials, rigging extensive outdoor lighting, and much, much more: here’s a tiny sampling. The ferns are not planted, they occur naturally in big patches throughout the woods; sturdy wooden pathways snake through marshy areas, and a number of studios are freestanding structures (this is the composer’s studio).




Below is my absolute favorite piece, which I am going to have to shoot at a different time of day; it’s in a small clearing and gorgeous against the sky. It’s a towering tree either disintegrating into the sky or being drawn down from it.  The artist is female, and German, and I am her newest fan:


A floating living room (shown docked) complete with functional lighting, reading material, and a glass-bottomed window.  I believe this artist is American, but am not sure I remember correctly.  I do definitely plan an afternoon float, though:

IP Livrm

A very recent (last session) work that reminds me of MaesHowe. Again, I think but am not certain that the artist is Canadian or maybe American:


“I-Park” in massive characters, by a Chinese artist:


Below is a small portion of an ongoing project by a Belgian artist; she’s created a series of connecting paths throughout the property, called Mie’s Trail, that follow and highlight some of the land’s unique characteristics. When she does intervene at different points on the pathway, she brings nothing in but subtly works with what is already there (I keep thinking of Suzi Gablik).  Here, she comes in yearly and cleans away everything but the red pine needles, in a perfect circle; in another place, she clears out invading plants from a beautiful velvety green area of undulating moss-covered rocks and earth.  It’s some of the most ephemeral, exquisite work on the place:


No, no, it’s not Patrick Dougherty, but (again, I think) a German artist:


I haven’t been up here yet, but this is a sturdily-mounted school desk and chair, I think by an American:


There are several sites by this woman, whose nationality I forget: she is ‘repairing’ trees and schisms in rocks with stitching, knitting and crocheting, some sites so huge that I couldn’t photograph them.  This photo does not do the intricacy of her work justice. At this site, there are several strips of peeling bark descending from a stitched up fallen tree whose edges have been neatly blanket-stitched, which just makes me smile:


A creature tree by a Russian artist, complete with ceramic fungus, and my favorite of the creatures, below it. Somehow it reminds me of walking straight into an Arthur Rackham illustration:



Yes, I am absolutely planning an outdoor site work of my own, and very likely,  a collaborative one as well, which is exciting. Now, off to more walks, and then the studio: last night’s freshly made abaca sheets await me.