Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Aspen and my donation to Great Basin National Park

(Above:  Me holding my framing art quilt of aspen trees.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

One of the reasons I applied for a two-week art residency at Great Basin National Park was because Steve and I visited in June 2019.  At the time, there was so much snow still in the park that most trails could only be accessed with snowshoes!  In fact, the last part of the twelve mile scenic drive on Wheeler Peak was closed.  Steve and I didn't get to hike any of the trails but I did get some fantastic images from along the road.  One of them was of aspen trees.  I had Spoonflower print that image on cotton fabric and took that fabric with me.  During my art residency, I hiked lots of trails but was especially fond of the 1.1 mile walk from the Summit Trailhead parking lot to Lake Stella. It winds through a clone of aspen trees.  I never failed to see at least six or more mule deer (often as many as 18!) munching at the roots of these trees.

(Above:  Aspen.  My digital image from June 2019 printed on cotton and embellished with both free-motion machine and hand embroidery. Blanket stitched edge.  13 1/5" x 18"; framed: 20" x 24 1/2".)

Every evening I stitched on this piece, adding more and more lime green French knots for the springtime aspen leaves and darker green straight stitches for the pine needles.  The edge is my typical blanket stitching.  As I worked, the autumn aspen leaves were turning brilliant yellow and floating down to the ground.

(Above:  Autumn aspens along a trail at Great Basin National Park.)
I never felt alone when hiking in Great Basin National Park because aspen trees grow alongside every trail.  Their "eyes" seemed to keep my company. One afternoon I hiked over my favorite 1.1 mile trail and the entire Alpine Lake Loop with a sketch book.  I stopped frequently to practice drawing these eye formations on the trunks. 

(Above: Composite image of some of the aspen eyes.)

These eyes are formed because aspens don't grow well in shade.  As they grow, they "self-prune", dropping the lower branches that don't get enough sunlight.  The resulting eye-formations are actually the scar from these former limbs.  

(Above: Cut graffiti on an aspen trunk.)

Aspen bark is a chalky white that scars easily, and I'm guessing these facts account for the graffiti cut into the trunks.  The whiteness comes from the way the bark grows.  Instead of forming a thick bark like other trees, the outer cells die/shed and leave a white powder behind. This thin, white surface is relatively smooth.  When someone cuts graffiti into it, the tree slowly but surely reacts.  Over a few years, it forms a thicker, woody bark to heal the wound. 

(Above: Autumn aspen leaves.)

In even a slight breeze, the aspen leaves "quake", a trembling sort of movement like a twirling pirouette dancing on a stem.  When watching them, they really do appear like three dimensional orbs, like French knots!  Tiny straight stitches are obviously a lot like pine needles.
(Above:  Aspen, detail.)
I framed my art quilt donation with UV glass so that it can hang on a hook-and-nail and in locations that might receive indirect light.  It is an honor to have another work in the permanent collection of the National Park Services.
(Above: Baker Lake.)

For the rest of this blog post, I am going to recap a few of the things I did during the last week of my art residency, thoughts and images I couldn't manage to blog while struggling with the poor Internet connectivity.  They aren't really directly "art" related but they were so important to my creative spirit.  I managed to hike much more than I thought I could ... longer, higher, further, steeper, and even every day.  

(Above: Johnson Lake.)
I thought a lot while hiking, especially about the "new normal" that will eventually come in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The art world (in fact, the whole world) will be different. I'm guessing that there will be more and more virtual exhibitions, on-line workshops and tutorials, Zoom meetings, and platforms for selling artwork on-line.  There will be a learning curve, even for someone like me who maintains my own website, navigates Facebook like a pro, and has been blogging for well over a decade.
(Above:  Rusted machinery and cable from WWI era tungsten mining, above Johnson Lake.)
I thought about the evolution of acrylic paints ... because it really wasn't that long ago when many snubbed the idea of acrylics, thinking that a "real painter" only ever used oil paint.  Times changed. I thought about the evolution of quilting ... because it really wasn't that long ago when many snubbed machine stitching, thinking that a "real quilter" only ever would quilt by hand.  Times changed.  I also thought about the evolution of digital photography. It really wasn't that long ago when juried exhibitions only accepted carefully marked slides sent by mail with a self-addressed stamped envelope for their return.  It didn't take long before digital was the only way to enter shows, apply for art residencies, share an exhibition proposal, or provide pictures for a magazine article.  Times changed and will continue to change.
(Above:  Dead Lake ... along one of the trails returning to the Snake Creek Trailhead.)
I thought about all the artists I've known who really couldn't manage these recent transitions.  The more I hiked, the more I was determined not to be among those who can't face the challenges that are already here the those that are coming.  I WILL OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES!  That is my new mantra!
(Above:  The ridge of mountains between Baker and Johnson Lakes.)
So ... to keep a little of the internal spirit that I had while at Great Basin National Park, I'm going to list the hiking I did with the steps counted by my Fitbit counted and the equivalent in miles along with the change in elevation.  I'm not bragging about this (although I'm quite proud of this accomplishment!) I am setting it in a public record to which I might refer in the future.  After all, if I can hike like this, I can face the technical/cyber challenges that are ahead.  This is a reminder that I will not set my sights too low but aim for achievement, even if it seems too far, too high, too long of a journey.  

(Above:  The ridge of mountains between Baker and Johnson Lakes with trail marked by a cairn.)
So ... here's my two weeks!
Monday, Sept. 14:  Most of the Alpine Lake Loop, up to the bristlecone grove, and up the road from the Wheeler Peak parking lot to the Summit Trailhead parking lot.  20,536 steps/8.97 miles. 600' elevation change, starting at 9,800'.
Tuesday, Sept. 15:  Glacier Trail. 19,068 steps/8.33. 1,100 elevation change, starting at 9,800'.
Wednesday, Sept. 16.  Took it easy by preparing for the Art in the Dark program but walked the nature trail behind the Lehman Caves Visitor Center three times and set up The Clothesline Installation. 10,454 steps/4.68 miles. 80' elevation change, starting at 6,825'.
Thursday, Sept. 17. Wheeler Peak and set-up for Art in the Dark. 36,912 steps/16.16 miles. 2,900' elevation change, starting at 10,160.  Highest point in the park at 13,063.
Friday, Sept. 18. Took it easy but walked the nature trail behind Lehman Caves Visitor Center three times. 13,274 steps/5.83 miles. 80' elevation change, starting at 6,825'.
Saturday, Sept. 19. Star-gazing night hike to Stella Lake. 14,173 steps/6.28 miles. 600' elevation change, starting at 9,800'.
Sunday, Sept. 20. Osceola Trail. 26,329 steps/11.48 miles. 100' elevation change, starting at 8,400'.
Monday, Sept. 21. Sage Loop and Strawberry Creek Trail. 20,241 steps/8.84 miles. 1,100 elevation change, starting at 8,216'
Tuesday, Sept. 22. Sketching along the entire Alpine Lake Loop. 13,473 steps/5.88 miles. 600' elevation change, starting at 9,800'.
Wednesday, Sept. 23. Baker Lake Trail. 34,266 steps/14.97 miles. 2,620 elevation change, starting at 8,000'.
Thursday, Sept. 24. Took it easy and conducted a mini workshop for home school students but walked the nature trail behind Lehman Caves Visitors Center twice. 11,265 steps/4.92 miles.
Friday, Sept. 25. Johnson Lake and up to the top of the ridge between there and Baker Lake.  32,171 steps/14.05 miles. 3,290 elevation change, starting at 8,320'.

Saturday, Sept. 26. Serviceberry Trail and Snake Canyon loop. 20,583 steps/9.00 miles. 728' elevation change, starting at 8,320'.

Sunday, Sept. 27. Return to Glacier Trail but scrambling further up and over the boulders to reach the snow field. 22,827 steps/9.95 miles. At least 1,300' elevation change (not listed because the "scrambling" isn't actually on a trail, starting at 9,800'.

Monday, Sept. 28. Return to the Alpine Loop and taking down The Clothesline Installation. Packing the vehicle to sadly leave. 19,881/8.68 miles. 600' elevation change, starting at 9,800'.
(Above:  Me on the snow field above the Glacier Trail.)

The spirit of determination, the peacefulness found in both quietness and relaxation, remembering how much I love reading a book, and the profound inspiration of natural beauty are things that will feed my soul for a long time ... hopefully for the rest of my life.  It was a wonderful art residency.

(Above:  Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty.)
My husband Steve flew into the Salt Lake City airport on the day I left Great Basin. Together we went to see Robert Smithson's iconic earthen sculpture set in 1970 on the banks of the Great Salt Lake.  We talked about many things ... including the fact that I will need to put my convictions to "keep up with technology" to work.  

(Above:  Inside the unique building at Dinosaur National Monument.)

COVID-19 cancelled many things this year.  Other events went "virtual" ... including the upcoming Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show.  Instead of being in my booth and talking about my work to potential buyers who physically come to the show, I will be uploading images to a newly revamped on-line sales site, changing the look of my website to reflect this important show, and figuring out how to effectively show and sell VIRTUALLY!  As restful as my time was in Nevada, it is now imperative that I get really, really busy!


Sherrie Spangler said...

Wow, that's a lot of hiking and elevation gain! I only wish I could do a fraction of that every day. And I love the piece you donated. It sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Catherine - Mixed Media Artist said...

agree with Sherrie...

I also need to start upskilling certain technological matters as well...particularly as more and more people are wanting to view my work in a "gallery" and even "purchase" ... mostly it would have to be a virtual gallery but also I need to get some of my collages/prints mounted which means finding that business in my city, Auckland (NZ)