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.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Residency Has Begun by erogerscello

September 2, 2013

Anasazi Heritage Center
It is 9:30pm and the house has gone quiet and the kitchen is abandoned. A bowl of Dreyers Vanilla Ice Cream sits beside me as I try to gather together the thoughts I had as I went through my day today. I can’t seem to find those impressions and thoughts right now, my head is too full. Here is what I did:

My day started around 6AM when I got up to have some quiet time to read, journal, be still, stand outside and look at the sun rising over the mountains. I curled up on the couch with my quilt in the living room. Leslie got up shortly after I did and came in to make coffee and read the bird book… At 7AM I set up my folding chair with two pillows, music stand and books and began the day with Cossman, Duport, Gruetzmacher, and Matz. A little of each, a cup of tea, and a bit of composing.

At 8AM we (Leslie, Ben and I) were going to head off to Mesa Verde to explore the park until our scheduled Welcome Dinner at 5pm. Colorado Art Ranch co-founder Peggy Lawless showed up and brought us gifts of moleskin journals to begin our residency, and then we had a surprise visit from Kristen (contract archeologist and quasi acting park ranger) who invited us to join her on rounds in the monument front sites.
The four of us spent the day in and out of Kristen’s Federal Government white pick up truck checking in with certain sites on the outer edge of the National Monument Wilderness. Kristen had bathrooms to bleach, trash cans to empty, sites to patrol and check for vandalism, infrared electronic data boxes to collect, a petroglyph comment from a visitor to check on... We drove over 100 miles around and through the park with Kristen telling us about the sites and her work and the history of the monument. She told us about the ‘bubbas’ who go to the park with alcohol and shotguns and use the trees and signs and ancient ruins for target practice (we went to a target site of choice and I picked up all gages of shells: .22, .45, 12Gage) and about the hatred between the Hopi and the Navajo. She pointed out petroglyphs of hands and the lizard man and answered our many, many questions… was it interesting to work on re-housing a collection of artifacts? what is the most interesting artifact you have studied? what counts as ‘prehistoric’? why is Hovenweep a separate park and not a monument? were there musical instruments found in the monument? what does it mean for a site to be unexcavated?

We found many shards of pots and projectile making rocks dating to sometime from 700-1200 and saw incredible remains of towers, buildings, pueblos, walls… We also saw a rock squirrel, small lizards, cicada skins and holes in the ground, jackrabbit, bison, deer, cows, vultures, a golden eagle. There were stunning views everywhere (we ate lunch overlooking the canyon) and an ocean of information about the indigenous people here, the land, the BLM, archeology, ranching…

We arrived home at 4:46pm (just in time for Kristen to get in the museum before it was locked up) tired, dusty and sweaty. While we were gone Peggy had sorted and re-stocked the kitchen. Soon after we got back a Dolores landscape artist and Colorado Art Ranch Board President arrived bringing homemade four-corners chili, posole, watermelon salad, and guacamole. We were joined for dinner by the Anasazi Heritage Center exhibit interpretive specialist (and out main liaison with the museum) and his classical pianist wife, along with an eco-tourism (and our housemate) intern. After dinner we sat around and talked (I did a lot of listening)… topics including research in outer space, geology, special places in the South West, pigeonholing indigenous peoples, wilderness definitions, art, personal stories, jokes about who it takes to screw in a light bulb (how many software engineers does it take to screw in a light bulb? None-it’s a hardware problem), how this area has an incredibly good radio station for such a small town.

We waved and called goodbye from the driveway to our new extended family, oooing and ahhing over the brightness of Saturn and its faint blinking star Spica. ‘Goodnight, drive safe, see you soon, have fun, enjoy your residency, I wish I was in your shoes…’

Then quiet again. Leslie and the interns called it a night. Ben found a makeshift table outside and began sculpting. And here I sit, my head spinning.

The Canyon of the Ancients National Monument wilderness residency has begun.

1 comment:

  1. Nice to see a picture of Ben and Leslie in one of the previous posts. I like to be able to picture who you are with and where you are. It is so vast! I would love to see the bald eagles! I have always liked them for their majesty.