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.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monomoy Wilderness From Above

Looking at the image of this rich, vast blue water while the rain comes down in Philadelphia:
 Thoughts while preparing for the land and waters of Monomoy 

By Elisabeth Nickles

The patterns that water makes, how it binds life on this planet, carries no judgment, nor knows its role as bringing life or destruction, it exists as a force. Masses move where they may, creep into every crevice, large and small.

The color blue, a most familiar color to the human eye, is used as a metaphor and to identify a thousand different variations of color. We rely on the abstraction of a word for color to specify a visual perception. "Is color real?" a question posed by a paleontologist in a class on vertebrate anatomy; answered: "it is real to the eye who perceives it". Some creatures see beyond the spectrum of the human eye. How can a color be described if it is beyond our visual comprehension and our verbal vocabulary?

This brings me to think of how we, as humans, see, what insight science has given us to see as the "other" creatures see and how much more we know about this earth and the cosmos because of what we can perceive with the aid of technology. Each day, there is always a possibility to bridge our connection with the natural world through the visions we encounter. How does seeing affect consciousness?

Much like the first images of the Earth from outer space, to see our home planet's sphere from above changed our collective consciousness forever. Science and technology have allowed us to see the vastness of life and continues to show us more. I can view the Monomoy Island using Google earth. I can see it in a way that did not exist not long ago. Never leaving the computer in Philadelphia,  I am seeing a wilderness that spans miles. Because technology grants us access to so much information, so quickly, we are privileged like never before, but also confined by an experience that is far from multi-dimensional.

I can see the wilderness, waters and landscape from above, I am amazed by the beauty of its design.  I can zoom in and see areas categorized, but in no way is this seeing experiential and total. I am not experiencing the wildness of the actual environment. While I hear the cars go by, sitting in a chair, I am still here, not there. My seeing is spliced in two. I am thrilled to see this place as it relates to smell, touch, weight, atmosphere, temperature and its inhabitants. Experiencing wilderness is in no way convenient, but it completes life, and its importance more relevant than ever.

The anticipation of a month steeped in perception and experience of a wild environment enchants me and reminds me for what I long.  The thought of disconnecting from speed and ease to a more physically challenging, yet slower way of seeing, creates a sensation that I can sense in my body. A solidity from head to toe, not over used from the neck up.

If our consciousness can act as a lens, zooming in and zooming out, we can be reminded of our small place in the incomprehensible span of time. The fact that we are not the center of existence has been frightening for some, fascinating for others. Still after hundreds of years,  scientific study is battled for its findings. Yet there is great comfort in merely being another organism, interacting and observing with other organisms, on this wonderful place called Earth. I look forward to sharing more from the ground and water below.

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