wilderness : self-willed flora, fauna & minera in the community of Earth
BACK TO BEYOND
Several years ago, my mom and I did a road trip to Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels on the Nevada-Utah border in the Great Basin Desert. We read Sightlines as we traveled, read about how Holt was intrigued by circles, how her earthworks were not just meant to be looked at but looked through like frames, how the camera she used to photograph her pieces was, for her, another framing device. My mom and I made our pilgrimage on Summer Solstice, and when we peered through the tunnels, we felt our dizzying place in the universe there on the warm sand.
Maps can be lenses as well as guides. What are your methods of way-finding, of seeing from one place to another, on land and in life?
Above is the Great Basin Desert and Nancy Holt's map from Salt Lake City to Sun Tunnels. It is believed the land was once occupied by the Fremont peoples. The Bannock, Paiute, Shoshone, Ute, and many other tribes and bands have long histories in the Great Basin. In 1974, Holt bought forty acres to construct Sun Tunnels because it was remote and yet accessible.
This is Nancy Holt's drawing for the placement of the Perseus constellation in one of her concrete tunnels. Perseus, in Greek mythology, rescued Andromeda from a sea monster and killed Medusa. Holt cared more about the math than the myth. As to choosing the constellations to drill into each tunnel, she wrote: "I wanted only those with stars of several different magnitudes, so that I could have holes of different diameters."
I was compelled by Holt's constellation drawings and wanted to use her Perseus plan as a background for my map, above. I was also inspired by e-bond's 100-Day Map Project, in which maps represent any kind of navigation field. On your next map, try choosing your background first and then see what transpires.
Monthly celebration of makers who are teaching / re-teaching us how to connect with the natural world and with one another.
Artist Emma Percy
Emma Percy is an eco-artist from Western New York, now living in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. Their work is dedicated to exploring and repairing the relationships between humans, the land, and our nonhuman relatives. Materially they work in the fields of book arts and fiber arts, and have published dozens of zines on the intersections of art + ecology.
Orchid Tierney is a poet and scholar from Aotearoa New Zealand, who now resides in Gambier, Ohio. She is the author of a year of misreading the wildcats (OS, 2019) and chapbooks my beatrice (above/ground press, 2020), ocean plastic (BlazeVOX Books, 2019) among many others. She is assistant professor of English at Kenyon College.
“The panoramic view of the landscape is too overwhelming to take in without visual reference points. The view blurs out rather than sharpens. Through the tunnels, parts of the landscape are framed and come into focus." --Nancy Holt, "Sun Tunnels"
Framing is a powerful tool, a mode of intention. Frames help you concentrate and see more closely. I've been carrying a Nancy Holt-inspired frame with me all month on my daily walks and--what a revelation.
1. MAKE a viewfinder from a piece of paper or cardboard. You can make a traditional rectangle viewfinder or create any odd shape.
On a walk or standing still:
2. VIEW a scene. If you want to, DRAW what you see, and/or DESCRIBE it in your journal.
3. You can decorate the drawing with paints, inks, or pencils. Or, FRAME it with a surprising border as artist Shara Hughes does. Below, I viewed winter berries in my neighbor's yard.
The man who came to fix my plumbing during the Chicago freeze had never heard of the pipes in the Great Basin Desert. The only basins he was familiar with were the sinks and laundry tubs he used in his work. I told him about the wide, flat expanse covering many states in the American West, the largest desert in the United States. Remember when Mom and I did that road trip?
I spent time this month perusing the Center for Land Use Interpretation website, a rich source of ideas about what land means and how it is used in the US. Cultural critic Lucy R. Lippard, one of Nancy Holt’s friends, said of the center: “it sends me back to my own surroundings with heightened interest. And the more I know about what’s going on around me, the more I’m likely to act on behalf of the local.” Check out the devastating art Abigail Echo-Hawk (Pawnee) fashioned when she and other Indian Health Board workers in Seattle asked for PPE to treat their indigenous patients. As reported byNative News Online: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service returns the National Bison Range to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. This month, I loved Camille T. Dungy’s “Dirt: A love story” and J. Drew Lanham’s imagined meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rachel Carson in 1964. Writer Shanna B. Tiayon’s interview about Black homesteading, community gardens, and co-ops in the era of Black Lives Matter is eye-opening. Do you want to lend a hand in preserving a natural environment? The Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation is looking for volunteers for their upcoming summer season.
For more art, writing & reading about all kinds of things, visit my blog.