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.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

October morning collaboration between Maple, Spruce, Aspen, wicker, wind, water and Anaya Cullen

It's a crisp October morning here in Ely, MN. I'm working outside the Cedar bunkhouse at the Kawishiwi Ranger Station where the three Artists-in-Residence, are staying along with Becca Orf, Biological Plant Technician/Wilderness Ranger, a Wolf Biologist, Firefighter and the occasional surprise visitor.  This is my first time experience the full changing of the color guard in the fall and the colors are eye-popping and ever changing, and contrasting brilliantly with the dark bark of the maple wet from morning rain. I weaving wicker this morning, letting my eyes taken in the color and my mind wander into making movement phrases watching the trees moving in the breeze. The spruce is practicing stillness mostly while the apsen seems to be working on allegro steps when the breeze kicks up. The dampness has actually become a collaborator at the moment, allowing me to weave for longer before the wicker becomes brittle and needs re-soaking. There is something about getting in to a good rhythm with your hands, doing something thumb-over-thumb like weaving, that I love. It’s meditative, and often good brainstorming or daydreaming time. 

I’m reminded of a poem I have loved for years by a Palestinian American Poet, Naomi Shihab Nye called The Man Who Makes Brooms...

The Man Who Makes Brooms
Naomi Shihab Nye
So you come with these maps in your head
and I come with voices chiding me to
"speak for my people"
and we march around like guardians of memory
till we find the man on the short stool
who makes brooms.

Thumb over thumb, straw over straw,
he will not look at us.
In his stony corner there is barely room
for baskets and thread,
much less the weight of our faces
staring at him from the street.
What he has lost or not lost is his secret.

You say he is like all the men,
the man who sells pistachios,
the man who rolls the rugs.
Older now, you find holiness in anything
that continues, dream after dream.
I say he is like nobody,
the pink seam he weaves
across the flat golden face of his broom
is its own shrine, and forget about the tears.

In the village the uncles will raise their kefiyahs
from dominoes to say, no brooms in America?
And the girls who stoop to sweep the courtyard
will stop for a moment and cock their heads.
It is a little song, this thumb over thumb,
but sometimes when you wait years
for the air to break open
and sense to fall out,
it may be the only one.

Beautiful poem, I think, painting strong images with her words, subtle in moments, yet bold in thought.  It’s looking like a downpour now, time to pack up the weaving studio and head for cover. Good morning. Amazing moments and the day is still new.


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