A Wilderness Science and Art Collaboration

Aldo & Leonardo, a partnership between Colorado Art Ranch and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, is a project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The project is inspired by the scientific wisdom of Aldo Leopold and the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Our endeavor is an interdisciplinary collaboration of artists and scientists designed to celebrate the lands, resources and opportunities protected by the Wilderness Act. In 2013, we are hosting one-month residencies in six diverse wilderness areas. Artists will work alongside wildland research scientists and gain firsthand knowledge of the wonders, complexities and challenges of our nation's wildest places. The result will be a body of work that creatively illustrates the value of wild areas and honors the scientific efforts to preserve wilderness for the next fifty years.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Lines and Labels

Posted by Elisabeth Nickles

This morning I have been thinking of the "wilderness “area” and the observations of the wildlife manager at Monomoy, Dave Brownlie. We use territorial indicators but in reality, the ecosystems are not bound by etymologic definition or official paperwork. Nor do the influences of the “non-wilderness” remain outside of the waters and air of the protected wild spaces.

The demarcations of ‘wilderness’ are like the lines we draw on the earth to delineate ownership, boundaries, and territories. Lines placed upon a spinning globe, travelling through space, at times, seem like the grasping of an insecure species. In relation to the actual textural and seismic lines on the earth, the measurement of time, space and area on something as immense and moveable as land, sea and space, our definitions and lines are flimsy. I am reminded of the poem by Rilke, The Man Watching, a good poem for a stormy day.

The Man Watching

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes,
that a storm is coming.
and I can hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
And the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the angel, who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler’s sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel,
(who often simply declined the fight),
went away strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Robert Bly

And so, we come to discover that what we do here, and what they do there, affect each other across the globe. We find out with  measuring tools, systems and symbols to research, quantify, build, plot and discover. We try to make sense of what we observe, hopefully in the larger scheme of things and not just within our own boundaries.

So we are here this month, as artists interacting with scientists, to blur another boundary- a line in the sand of who we each are, by definition and profession: Scientist/ Artist. I am here to say today:  I am here as another human being and I need water, food, air, beauty and connection. How can we work together to make the way we live more harmonious with the larger environment? 


  1. Love this big... the images. The last paragraph especially. How can we indeed?
    By small acts. We start there. Residencies such as this.