New art installed on Natural Trail

New art project in College Natural Area links Earth, words

August 28, 2019

The image above shows some of the word blocks last Friday after they arrived to be part of an art project by Nancy Winship Milliken, center in photo directly above with two student assistants who helped her arrange the blocks at their sites along the Nature Area trail. Below are a few more images of Friday’s activity. (Photos by Caitlin Lei)

As Saint Michael’s first-year students were moving onto campus on Friday, August 23, a new art project by Nancy Winship Milliken was installed at five sites along the main trail of the Saint Michael’s Natural Area. Some of the pieces from the Natural Area will move to the McCarthy Art Gallery for Milliken’s exhibition opening on October 3.

Brian Collier of the College’s art & design faculty, curator of the Gallery, says he hopes members of the community will “take a break, take a walk and have a look.” Declan McCabe of the biology faculty, who has been deeply involved developing the Natural Area and its trails, has been contributing to practical aspects of this installation as well.

The title of Milliken’s work is “Earth Press Project: Dispatch from Gaia,” and it is a collaboration with Vermont Poet Laureate Chard deNiord who will also be reading at the opening. Collier said that five stanzas of a DeNiord poem imprinted in earthen blocks made by Milliken have now been installed at the five Natural Area sites:

The first site is by the trail head with the main Natural Area sign board across the street from Hoehl Welcome Center between the cemetery and “the view” field. “Visitors are invited to walk down to see these installations but we ask that you please not move or touch the blocks, they have been carefully and intentionally arranged by the artist,” Collier said. “Over the next five weeks the blocks will begin to break down into the landscape of the Saint Michael’s Natural Area. In early October we will bring some of the blocks, which will have been weathered at the site, into the McCarthy Art students arranging blocks Gallery for her exhibition which will be accompanied by video and other components from the project.”

Collier also invites the campus and wider community to attend Milliken’s artist talk on Oct. 3 at 5 p.m. in Cheray 101, and to the opening reception on Thursday October 3 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. when Chard deNiord will do a reading of the poems.

More about this project:

The artist Milliken has offered these personal words about the project: “Earth Press Project: Dispatch From Gaia is a collaborative event with Nancy Winship Milliken Studio, Chard deNiord (Vermont’s recent Poet Laureate) and the natural area of Saint Michael’s College. Earth and words, two disparate yet common elements—one heavy, dense, fluid and solid, the other ethereal and weightless in its gravitas. Both are necessary for the integrated task of apprehending and beholding the double nature of life and the planet at the same time. Combine them and the earth is sanctified in print with human deference. Stanzas from Chard deNiord’s poem Dispatch From Gaia, (originally read at Feverish World Symposium, October 2018) have been imbedded into adobe blocks made of beautiful grey Champlain clay, sand and hay from fields surrounding the studio. The blocks have been installed in the Saint Michael’s College natural area and reveal environmental contribution, eroding words. We honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations and into the future. There was a constant and generous flow of creative input from people who gathered around this project. Ted Ollier advised on the font selection and printing. Liz Johndrow was our earthen sage. This project would not have been possible without the earnest and diligent work of interns Diane Klement, Michael Weiss, Brooke Van Buiten, Meryl Braconnier, Emily Kiernan, with managers Eleanor Reagan and Carley Zarzeka. My heart is filled with hope for the future with you all at the helm. Thank you for your generous dedication to this project and to the world.”

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