This past weekend I traveled to Concord, Massachusetts, to install a site-specific installation for the Art Ramble 2017: Slow Eyes, Solace & Site, an exhibition in honor of Henry David Thoreau’s 200th birthday. The site of the installation, within the Hapgood Wright Town Forest, sits in close proximity to Walden Pond. The show is hosted by the Umbrella Community Arts Center and curated by Jenn Houle.
Having never seen the forest before, my project proposal was based on assumptions of what I might find when I arrived there. The concept of my installation piece entitled, Drift, was loosely based off of a print I had made earlier this year, Pine Needle Polka Dot. I wanted to do something similar in form within the landscape. I planned to collect plant material from the forest floor, possibly pine needles if available, and arrange them into piles that would sit onto a contrasting color. With the inherent impermanence of the work, I planned to have a photographic reference on site for viewers to experience the piece as it had once existed.
After arriving in Concord on Saturday afternoon, I walked the trails of the forest and looked for contrasting colors to create my work. Many of the paths were covered with dried, orange pine needles. My location within the forest was a clearing just off the path that was densely covered in orange needles. I also noticed that the freshly fallen branches from the white pine trees still had green needles. I collected these branches and began removing the needles for the installation.
There was one small hitch in my original plan. The fallen branches had needles that were about 3 to 4 inches in length. They didn’t fit the 2 inch diameter tubes and template I had designed in anticipation for the installation. I soon realized I would need to add another step in my process and trim them down to smaller sizes, to about 1 inch. I spent a good part of the following morning on Sunday trimming pine needles over my morning coffee.
I took the trimmed pine needles back to the forest were I organized them into repeating circular piles onto the contrasting orange needles below. With the feeling that it might downpour at any moment, I photographed the progress as I worked. A few times I felt raindrops but the storm held off. I was able to install 123 piles and covered an area approximately 2 feet by 8 feet with the quantity of green needles I had trimmed earlier in the day.
Back at my computer, I sorted through the images. Part of my consideration in planning for the piece was to have a booklet that would hold images, so I had brought a mobile lab along with me in my car which included a laptop, printer and laminator. On my last day in Concord, I printed the booklet as a reference for viewers. The booklet sits in a box I had constructed ahead of the installation, designed to look like a trail map box (special thanks to Chris Oliver for the box-building assistance).
Over the course of the installation, the green will fade and the forces of wind and rain will erase the pattern. The piles will scatter and return to a state of randomly dispersed matter. Drift is a reflection on the passage of time and the pressures of nature that will inevitably eradicate the work.
The exhibition opens on June 1st and will run through September.