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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Benjamin Ceramix: Clay From The Mountains (Canyons of the Ancients National Monument)

While working as an Artist in Residence at the Canyons of the Ancients, I often make trips to the McPhee Reservoir, a beautiful winding road that unveils clearings of snowy mountain ranges, several giant snakes of water, and green fields spotted with shadows of passing clouds. The site is characterized as the largest and most funded archaeological excavation site in the country's history. Hundreds of artifacts such as patterned pottery, yucca sandals, and effigies made by the Anasazi were found there and catalogued for the cultural preservation of our ancestors. One day I decided to venture into the shallow valleys of the reservoir a day after rain. I came across the remains of a stream, which sat like a silent mud road assembled with geometric, tightly-fit earth blocks. The tessellation of mud formations seemed to resemble the keyboard of a computer and sank with gravity as the trodden path of my feet created a sculptural novel. I lifted a dried panel the size of a laptop of mud to reveal a bottomless cauldron of clay—dark grey with tan fine grain grog, sticky, malleable, and cold. After shoveling a mass of substance from the ground with my hands into a large Ziploc bag, I walked back to my truck with the bag of clay on my head. I combined this clay with dry elements from other areas of the land (dried mud, sandstone, fine gravel, some bugs), collected near areas of sacred views and holy ancestral places. From this unique mix manifested several small, intuitive sculptural beings. The photos are below, and the pieces will be getting fired in a local artist's kiln this weekend (updates to come). The large piece is named RainChild until it emerges from the kiln, and will then maybe be given a new name. It is about 60 lbs, 2', and is made with a Cassius Basaltic clay that will fire to a dark brown or black. I made it during the first week of my residency after absorbing the ancient architectural beauty of Mesa Verde. It resembles the cultural spirit of the pueblo community long ago—the head and face reminiscent of a sandstone tower built into the cliffs. I plan to make several more pieces from the clay found in this area while I am here. At the moment, I am also creating an animation of my sculptures that features a digital technology project that was made via collaboration with Vince MacMillan, an excellent archaeologist of the Anasazi Heritage Center and BLM. I expect it to be done soon and am excited to share it with you all!! Cheers, Ben

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