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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

McDiarmid Aldo & Leonardo project @ Kennedy Museum

Wall Text:

you can find images from exhibit  at:


 scroll down to find the Kotwa Headress worn  by viewers as a means to experience space & terrain

Artist Statement Duane McDiarmid exhibition Kennedy Museum of Art Athens Ohio
In 2013 The Colorado Arts Ranch in partnership with the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, selected 24 artists to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Wilderness Act Sending these artists to work in situ with scientists and wilderness rangers in six different wilderness biomes across the United States and its Territories. 
I was selected as one of these Aldo & Leonardo Fellows and traveled to the 907 square miles that is The John Muir Wilderness Area. Located in the alpine biome of the Sierra Mountains, the John Muir sits within the 2,974 sq mile Inyo National Forest and is adjacent to the 721 sq miles that make up the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. It is a remote and isolated place and for 30 days my mandate was to create my work while also working with wilderness rangers on the move in the field. I spent 16 days on foot within the wilderness traversing well over 100 miles and climbing and descending between 1000 and 4000 ft daily. I spent the other 14 days at the National Forest service’s Jack Ass Lake Cabin which served as studio, orientation center, and the base for Aldo Leonardo operations—located near the John Muir wilderness boundary and some 2hrs by car to the nearest cell phone reception, store, phone line, mail service or access to the electrical grid—the cabin was equipped with a propane refrigerator and generator that provided evening electricity.
The ‘Wilderness Act’ mandates the preservation of the ‘Wilderness Character’ of lands, and among its provisions is the prohibition of the development of roads, the building of structures, the extraction or altering of resources and the use of mechanized transport. Much of this can be implemented interpretively—but it is worth noting that I was inspired by Wilderness Manager Adam Barnett who suggested that an interpretation when discussing finding a campsite-- campsites are found not made...if you need to move pine cones or stones perhaps you are making rather then finding camp.  In light of these restrictions my response was to create an embodiment of wilderness character as described by federal legislation and in the spirit there-of I entered and encountered the Wilderness. 
Embedded with Wilderness Rangers I accompanied them on their official duties and roamed on extensive off trail solo excursions--Along the way I employed a series of props that like myself were both in and interruptions to wilderness. On foot in the Sierras I like others performed myself in reaction to wilderness while seeking a communion with it--and I like many sought an adventure with the environment that would be transformative. This came to include sharing the wilderness with a 19,000 acre forest fire which at lower elevations 7000-9000 ft. snowed ash and reduced visibility to well under 100 yards, My climb off trail to glacial fragments along the ridgeline above the Piute Plateau, and many other off trail excursions where I employed props and actions for others visitors or in their absence.
The Document presented here seeks to elude to a multifaceted experience, marked by a profound physical activity and space, and inclusive of a schism deriving from being both rejoined and forever alien to wilderness, all residing within metaphysical experience. 
To experience this document you may wish to swing the Chime-Can and wear the Kotwa Banner. To do so, free the Chime Can’s blue cord from the tripod hook, shift the Banner’s carabineer from tripod strut to your own belt or belt loop. Dangle the Chime Can from the cord 4—12 inches above ground features, and gently and without self consciousness swing the can back and forth while negotiating the ‘local terrain’. You may also wish to dress yourself in the headdress and loincloth. 
Transpiring within physical space and inseparable from material environment the mark is not made upon material—Through process and event, physical force and dream I allow the wilderness to sculpt and reveal I.
On the Aldo & Leonardo Project blog you'll find profiles and interviews with artists and scientists and samplings of their experiences and contemplations. My own entries here are drafted under the author name abracadabra. You are encouraged to supplement your viewing of the documentation here with learning more about the related art and thoughts of Aldo and Leonardo Fellows and to learn of my other actions in the John Muir Wilderness Area, that collectively make up the Kotwa Project.
Excerpts from the Wilderness Act:
Assuring that expanding settlement and mechanization does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States, Congress will secure for the American people and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.
Wilderness Areas shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such a manner as will leave them unimpaired for the future use and enjoyment as Wilderness and the preservation of their Wilderness character and for the gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and enjoyment as Wilderness.
A Wilderness in contrast to those areas where Man and his works dominate is recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is only a visitor who does not remain…1) a land retaining its primeval character and influence where the imprint of mans work is substantially unnoticeable, 2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation 3) exceeds 5000 acres in an unimpaired condition, 4) contains ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational or historic value
Conveyed to us by Area Manager at our orientation
* nothing of human origin shall be left within the boundaries of a wilderness area with the exception of heritage objects of 50 years of presence or greater
* no mechanized or motorized transport (boats, vehicles, wheelbarrows) tools (power tools, chain saws, scaffolding, blasting caps) or devices (electric razors) shall be employed—as the use of these have been specifically identified as outside of the wilderness character in statute or subsequent litigation.
* no aircraft shall land or be launched within a Wilderness Area
* there are 5000 official and unofficial fire rings within the wilderness each contains the remains of aluminum foil.
* Any encampment within the wilderness area should be located 100 feet from water and trail—almost none are placed with respect to this mandate
* no fires are allowed above 10,000 feet—and currently there is a fire ban throughout the Sierra—given that conditions of  the forest are drier then a kiln dried 2 x 4 at Lowes
* human waste should be either packed out or buried 6 to 8 inches  below grade in loose soil—leaves from native plants should be employed as wipes.
* all foods soaps medications sunscreens or other aroma sources must be secured within a bear can

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Site 16 and Site 5, A collaboration between Troy Nickle, Mark Jirsa, The Minnesota Geological Survey and the University of Minnesota

Photograph and artwork by Troy Nickle, geological notes by Mark Jirsa

Site 16
UTM = 62217/5325277  On Birch Lake, side of portage to Carp Lake.
Canada on shore to right (N), image on US side.
Mudstone and slate – here with strong slaty cleavage, pieces of cleaved rock
have been “jumbled” together at different orientations presumably by fault movement.

These are two of sixteen site specific works that were done in collaboration with Mark Jirsa of the Minnesota Geological Survey and the University of Minnesota. The work was initiated through a dialogue between Mark and I about how we could bridge geology with art. Through this project I accompanied Mark in canoe and on a 10km walk near our camp site on the South Arm of Knife lake in The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of Minnesota to document and map a variety of ancient bedrock crusts throughout the area. The South Arm of Knife Lake was of interest to Mark because there had been a fire there a few years earlier. This meant that much of the moss and lichen that covered these rock outcrops had been burned off, allowing the rock to be easily mapped.

For each site we created a square section approximately 1 meter by 1 meter, to frame different geological events and rock formations with locally found materials like wood, reeds and stones. Each site corresponds to a Universal Transverse Mercator reading. As Mark was taking notes mapping the site I would create the frame in the landscape and document it with close up shots of the rock within the frame and an image of the frame in context to the land.

Site 5
Interlayered white weathered sandstone and mudstone, B = N 10 E / 80 W
T= W

Below is a map of the area and the sites that we mapped and documented.

I express my deep gratitude to The Colorado Art Ranch in collaboration with the Aldo Leopold Institute for allowing me to go on such a great adventure and Mark Jirsa for making coffee every morning, sharing his jolly rancher candy and for his enthusiasm and knowledge of geology.