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, December 16, 2013

Reflections on my month at CANM

Storm over Cannonball, encaustic on panel, 24" x 48"

My month was spent at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (CANM) in far SW Colorado.  It was a month of exploring a desert wilderness filled with archeology since CANM was densely populated by the Ancestral Puebloans until  ~1270 AD when they moved south to areas with more water after a long and severe drought which was at least partially caused by human activities.  My time at CANM was marked by many unseasonable dramatic storms moving across the mesas and canyons, producing flash floods, runoff and very dramatic lightening on the heights. At the same time the Front Range of Colorado was having severe flash flooding resulting in $2 billion of damage - all likely caused by climate change.

Oncoming storm 1, encaustic monotype on kozo, ~ 18 x 24"

I came away from this trip with a heightened appreciation for the power of nature and the reach of human activity to accelerate big weather events. Being in wilderness is making oneself open to nature and also vulnerable to it in ways that in normal life we tend to assume won't happen. Climate change brings bigger more powerful weather events making us vulnerable even when we aren't backpacking in the high desert.

Oncoming storm 2, encaustic monotype on kozo, ~ 18 x 24"
This residency pushed me.  I am an experienced hiker and backpacker but had not backpacked in many years and am in my 50s.  It was physically challenging - I am in good shape but was hiking with people who are younger and fitter than I.  I drove on rougher 4WD roads than I have ever tried and realized that I was more competent than I had given myself credit for being.

Oncoming storm 3, encaustic monotype on kozo, ~ 18 x 24"
It was not a studio based residency given the amount of time we spent in the back country.  I did a lot of photography much of which I have posted previously.  Now that I am back in the studio I am painting and making monotypes - both using encaustic.  Unsurprisingly much of this work is about weather.  Hiking in high desert brings sky, horizon and weather to the forefront of one's experience.

Lowering storm 1, encaustic on cedar shake, ~7 x 10"
I am deeply grateful to Colorado Art Ranch and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute for making this experience possible.  It was immensely rewarding and even life-changing.  Working with the wonderful staff at the Anasazi Heritage Center was a pleasure.  We were very supported by their generosity in sharing their expertise with us.

storm/ground, encaustic on panel, 6 x6"

Storm series 5 down, ink & encaustic on partially silver coated kozo, ~15 x 25"

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