Thursday, October 3, 2013

Basia Irland's "Gatherings"

While rifling through the September 2013 copy of Sculpture the other day, I discovered another artist who is collecting samples from the landscape. Basia Irland's Gathering of Waters is a site-specific, participatory environmental art project. Irland's first "gathering" occurred on the Rio Grande and she has since recreated many others throughout the US, including the Nisqually River below. All the actions include a canteen, logbook, video documentation, river maps, and a handmade backpack which also exists as a repository. She researches each site extensively, often working with ecologists.

Basia Irland, A Gathering of Waters: Nisqually River, Source to Sound, Repository/Backpack, 2009 [cedar frame with maps, hydrology reports, photographs, logbook, and canteen]

I am interested in her ritualistic act of walking and collecting, not to mention the portable objects she makes to house the containers. On the other hand, none of the backpacks look comfortable nor do they look like they would survive a fall on a slippery rock in a creek bed.

Basia Irland, Apothecary for Creeks and Other Living Beings, 2013 [wood, carrying strap, vials, and 45 medicinal plants in use in Glen Helen, Yellow Springs, Ohio]

Mark B. Feldman, author of the essay "Gathering of Waters: An Invitation to Know Your River," writes: "She restores a largely vanished ritual function to the art object, which tethers it to particular places and functions. The backpacks/repositories are like portable altarpieces or cabinets of wonder."

Basia Irland, Apothecary for Creeks and Other Living Beings, 2013 [wood, carrying strap, vials, and 45 medicinal plants, detail of ongoing work]

Basia, Irland, Tome 1, 2007 [250 pounds of ice and mountain maple, columbine, and blue spruce seeds, 28" x 20" x 8"]

Irland also creates "ice books" which are left in creeks to melt. They contain native plant seeds which are then carried down the river once the ice dissolves. Their temporal nature, mainly referenced in photographic documentation, adds to the beauty of these objects, while commenting on profound themes like river ecology and global warming.

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