In January of 2015, a group of artists spent ten days in the desert in residency at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, NV. This group, consisting of Jill Baker, Megan Berner, Nicole Donnelly, and Jennifer Meridian, attended the University of Iowa together working towards MFAs between 2005 and 2009.
This was the first time we were able to reunite and work together in over 5 years. We used the time and space together to start new work and collaborate with each other, letting the work be influenced by the environment and the conversations taking place. Some individual pieces were completed during the residency but a lot of the work became starting points for larger ideas to develop. We experimented with cyanotypes, gathering materials from the desert, documenting, photographing, and giving ourselves various exercises (i.e., “1-minute photographs” that were short video pieces, going on short walks, and quick free writing activities).
After returning from the desert, we continued to create artwork from our experience from a distance, sharing images via a website that became a sort of sketch book. We are thinking of this work as ongoing—like a dialogue.
Inspired by Desert Notes, a collection of essays by author Barry Lopez, we imagined that much of what we were doing in the desert were notations, sketches, open-ended ideas, and conversations with and about the landscape and environment. Our Desert Notes became drawings, photographs, impressions and reflections, collections, short videos, and performances. This work reflects our process of collaboration, as well as our individuality as artists, exploring themes of desert, landscape, and naturalism.
Two exhibitions of the work from Desert Notes happened in 2017—one at Sierra Arts Foundation Gallery in Reno, NV and one at Left of Center Gallery in Las Vegas, NV.
Surrender is a site-specific book composed of nine white flags with sewn on text, also in white, spelling out words like: "will", "unhurt", "outlasting", and "persist". A flag is a way of making wind material and legible. At the same time, the flags are, in a sense, 'surrendered' to the wind—the wind is free to act on it however it may, changing the flag's shape, sometimes making the words legible, sometimes making them more sculptural. This project brings the symbolic quality of the flag together with the meaning of each word: there's a certain beauty in thinking of a word like "will" being rendered into billowing, flowing shapes—in this way, the word, as a bearer of ideas, is acted upon by the wind, a phenomena without meaning. The contradiction between the idea of the white flag and the meaning of the word along with the action of the wind upon both, is in a way, asking the viewer to surrender to the experience.
Lake Lahontan's Maritime Legacy, 2013
(Mixed media installation with Jared Stanley)
Lake Lahontan's Maritime Legacy: A Vexillological History is a series of nine flags based on ghost towns in Nevada created as evidence of the 20,000-year-old sailing culture of ancient Lake Lahontan. A small pamphlet was published in conjunction with the creation of the flags telling the history of Lake Lahontan's maritime culture. From the pamphlet: "Why flags? Because flags tell you very little about the actual culture of a place, and a whole lot about the ideals people have about their activities, conscious or otherwise. And of course there's no reason to care about people's daily lives, so instead of worrying about all that, we thought it would be nice to show you some colors."
Beowawe Yacht Club
Berlin Scuba Club
Vya Regatta flag in Vya, NV
The Aeolian Marsh, 2013
(Mixed media installation with Jared Stanley)
The Aeolian Marsh was a site-specific poem composed on 9 flags done in collaboration with Jared Stanley. Its debut, its only place, and the singular day of its reading: Arrowhead Marsh, Oakland California on Feb 22nd 2013, at the Berkeley Conference on Ecopoetics. A flag works in concert with the weather to mark territory, to say something: if the wind is blowing, the text says one thing, and the saying undulates upon the fabric of the flag. If the air is still, the letters and words involute, swirl in upon themselves—and so, the composition of the piece, the forethought, was utterly dependent on what the weather did on February 22nd, 2013.
(in collaboration with Jenn Myers, Jill Baker, and Daniel Luchman as the buffalo)
American folk-legend Johnny Appleseed walked from Massachusetts to Indiana planting apple orchards in the early 1800s. His final resting place is in Fort Wayne, Indiana. As an artistic action, the Johnny Appleseed Color Guard is reversing Johnny Appleseed's westward frontier movement, traveling instead West to East planting native species where we go. JACG wears burlap dresses in the fashion of Johnny Appleseed, carries flags, pulls a wagon of seedlings and distrubutes these to parade spectators throughout the procession.
On April 26th, 2008, the first occasion that the piece was performed, the JACG pulled a cart filled with native wildflower seedlings including purple coneflower, rudbekia (black-eyed susans), and coreopsis. The artists passed out seedlings and engaged the audience in conversations about the project.