The biophony of a place
Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts Residency
Brush Creek Ranch, Saratoga, WY (1 month)
After a 2 day drive past Las Vegas, through Cedar City, around mountains and through woods, passing Burger Kings and McDonalds every stretch of the way, I see the red sign! I arrived to a mile-long dirt road to a 30,000 acre ranch and resort at Brush Creek Ranch. A vibrant green oasis in Saratoga, WY, this area is green for miles, buzzing with wildlife. The first thing I notice when I get out of my car is the sounds of nature, unconfined and protected on these grounds. Leaves from birch trees quiver and patter in the wind, chipmunks squeak from a distance, birds and frogs are chirping everywhere, and river water races. Instantly, I feel at home.
Within minutes, I witness roaming antelope, deer, cattle, and horses with sporadic bouncing rabbits, marmots and chipmunks darting into view. The vast biodiversity and wild terrain exceeds my expectations and is exactly what I need for my purposed ecological web puzzle project and other works. I am comforted by nature here, it is nostalgic, familiar, and calming. However, there is an underlying sadness that immersion in nature feels like a novel experience, let alone “hearing nature” ring. I have witnessed the quieting of nature from Los Angeles to Idyllwild, as cars, voices, music, honking, hammering fill the air silencing bird calls and crickets that once overpowered dawn and dusk.
The biophony, or collective sound of vocalizing animals in an environment, directly corresponds to the health of an ecosystem. Take a listen to Sound Matters podcast on “The Sound of Life Itself” which examines soundscape ecology in a clear way. I now listen for healthy environments and want to incorporate this into an auditory art project in some way. Here is an example of a symphony of life captured outside of my studio!
Perhaps auditory experimentation can also be made possible in collaboration with other artists here. This is my first residency experience alongside artists in various disciplines. Eight artists were selected for this month including 4 visual artists, 2 writers, and 2 composers. I look forward to seeing everyone’s projects evolve and enjoy sharing ideas with this creative, inquisitive group. We will be hosting an Open Studios event for visitors at the resort as well as those on the selection committee in two weeks, we have our work cut out for us. It is go time!
At the start of every residency, I explore the area with my Canon EOS Digital Camera around my neck and my iPhone in hand to capture loads of source material and inspirational content. I alternate between cameras: the digital camera is best for high-quality images and videos while my iPhone is excellent for close-ups and panoramic shots. Returning home with hundreds of images, I seek patterns and themes in the imagery, classifying content for various series-based works. If I am captivated by a certain image, subject, or grouping, I gain my direction…or simply a place to start.
Right now, I have two projects planned for my time here on the ranch: first, a large-scale puzzle of a giant web containing hundreds of illustrations of plants and animals; second, a weaving project utilizing a small trampoline frame. Additionally, I brought a dozen small round canvases, watercolor paper, and a large canvas to allow my mind and project intentions to wander and derive directly from my experience, feelings, and thinking here. At all residencies I highly encourage allowing the location to inform and shape the work.
Let’s see what happens…