Art to Nature at Riverlands
Art has been a portal to nature since the pioneering eﬀorts of John James Audubon’s life-sized watercolors and hand engraved prints of Birds of America. The recent Audubon Mural Project celebrates birds while drawing attention to the risks posed by climate change and other threats. Since opening in 2011, Audubon Center at Riverlands has incorporated art into our mission to build understanding and appreciation of birds, our Great Rivers and wildlife habitat,” says Ken Buchholz, Executive Director, Audubon Center at Riverlands. “Thomas Sleet was commissioned in 2021 to design a work of art inspired by our site on the Mississippi River — to create another dimension for engagement with our mission of conservation and education.”
River Ark, A Site Specific Sculpture by Thomas Sleet
As I began to walk the grounds of the Audubon Center, in consideration of a site for a sculptural intervention, I realized there were several key elements to embrace:
The slope of the land, the color of the plants and grasses, lines of sight, the local natural materials, and the relationship of land to water, et al.
It became evident to me that the river itself was a major element of this environment, key in the shaping of this landscape and also a provider of large amounts of driftwood that might speak to a connection between the land and the water.
I began to consider ways in which I could use driftwood to draw lines in the land, to draw the eye across the land, to connect the prairie to the water’s edge and provide a sculptural installation of scope and scale, that would allow visitor interaction.
The work I envision for this site consists of two parallel rows of driftwood, charred, and oiled, and set vertically into the ground. I will orient this installation along some relative geologic and celestial alignments such as: equinox, solstice, east / west line, sunrise / sunset designation, and elevation of slope.
For this site specific sculpture, artist Thomas Sleet, envisioned two parallel lines of driftwood posts, set vertically into the ground, stretching approximately 60 ft. in length; the posts will be between 4 inch and 7 inches in diameter; the posts will be 4 foot tall at one end and 8 ft tall at the other end of the line. This parallel arrangement will contain around 60 to 70 qty. total units [posts] in graduating size.
The charred posts, used in this installation have received a blackened patina and a boiled linseed oil coating. The top ends of posts will be fitted with mirrors to reflect the sun and sky at different angles at different times of day. The viewer will be able to contemplate the work from a distance, close up and from inside of the installation.