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Shifting Landscapes & Human Impact

2019
Olana, New Paltz, NY
site-based research | scent | community engagement

Frederic Church was an artist who was a central figure in the late 19th century Hudson River School. His paintings framed the Catskill Mountains and woods as idyllic, pastoral, and essentially romantic. This project explored these same landscapes through site-based research, sensual experiments, and participatory actions. 

 

Invited by the Olana Partnership, I spent Spring and Summer walking the land, observing plants and forests. I spent Spring and Summer walking the land, observing plants and forests. Entering into local scenes that were specifically depicted by Church, these landscapes have since been impacted by humans, bridges, factory buildings, radio towers. During this time, I wild foraged plants from Olana's landscape, specifically the Eastern Hemlock, a tree which was essential to the region's tanning industry but has since been extirpated to the brink of extinction. To acknowledge human impact and changing ecosystems, and with  intentions to reform a relationship to that site, I distilled these plants into aromatic waters and shared them with the surrounding community.

 

During a multi-day ritual engagement, I dug up soil from the nearby forest where new growth Hemlock were being tended. I asked participants to take a handful of this soil and plant a hope or a wish in their palm of dirt. Hemlock hydrosol was spritzed on the walkers and the dirt they held, nurturing in their intention as they walked down the path. There on the trail, a symbiotic relationship grew between the Hemlock trees, their hydrosol and our dreams.