High Plains Scent Map
Ucross, Clearmont, WY
various site-responsive engagements | hydrosol collection | public event
During a residency at Ucross in Wyoming, the terrain of the high plains was explored on foot with aims to understand the place through scent. The region is vast, big sky leading to big horizon lines. The Spring winds in the high plains whirl through all things standing, exposing vulnerabilities and extenuating a sense of vast space. Natural resources formed in ancient ecological times leave their mark in this landscape. Sagebrush, ponderosa pine, alfalfa, sheep wool, horse hair, clinker rock, clay and coal were wild-harvested and turned into hydrosols. In the studio, sculptural forms were created to accentuate or embody elements of the natural aromas.
When presented to the public, viewers encountered a collection of hydrosols that together create a scent map of the region. A giant paper turban immersed viewers in an aromatic experience of distilled sagebrush, a hearty plant with survival writ in its cells. Coal was unearthed and turned into hydrosol; spritzed onto viewers, it honored the ancient ecological period while calling into question human relationship with finite resources. Kneeling to the ground, viewers experienced horse hair mixed with alfalfa as evidence of their codependent relationship.
The Wyoming Girls High School, Sheridan, WY is part of the juvenile justice system of Wyoming. Four hydrosols made from native Wyoming plants and natural materials that the participants grew up with were spritzed on the girls. Smelling these aromatics made from local plants brought to their consciousness memories, images, colors, and feelings. Their written responses were shared with the group and a collective poem was created. This workshop was a collaboration with Ucross staff writer Carly Fraysier.