Arts & Culture / Featured / Mosaic / April 23, 2014

Green Oaks: Nature as an art studio

On the drive into Green Oaks Biological Field Station last Saturday, there appeared to be a white flag on a large stick billowing in a dry grass field. Upon closer inspection, there was a person hoisting that flag. It was senior Evelyn Langley: a returner to Green Oaks Term.

According to her peers, Langley is creating a “land boat” since she is intrigued by how the prairie visually mimics the ocean. One day they helped her carry a dining room table out to the prairie grass. Langley and all students partaking in Green Oaks term are in the beginning stages of immersive art projects centered in a natural location.

“We have this ‘spot’ that we’ve picked at Green Oaks, which is just a way of getting more specific with the whole landscape because we can’t explore it all every day, but we can really get to know this one spot,” senior Emily Cooney said. “It’s interesting what sites people pick because it really goes with their personality.”

For this project, students are expected to create artwork in or around their chosen site. They have 700 acres to choose it from. Their art can take a number of forms, such as that of an installation piece (such as Langley’s land boat), a painting of the site or poetry inspired by the site. The project options are very broad. For instance, junior Callie Smith’s approach is auditory and focuses on sounds around her site. This idea was inspired by animal sounds heard during a night hike with the Green Oaks crew.

“Usually when you pick a spot, you pick a few and then you narrow it down based on how you relate to your site and what relates to you, and what you can build off of in terms of your final project,” sophomore Jessica Robinson said.

Cooney and Robinson have both chosen ravines off of South Creek and similarly liked how trees and tree roots make this space an interesting location to move around in.

“There are these two trees that have fallen and have formed this triangle. I like walking on the fallen trees and moving around the site,” Cooney said.

Cooney is considering creating a sort of nest or cocoon enclosure in the center of her site. Robinson is more interested in the elements than concrete flora and fauna.

“Right now, I’m building a ladder because I’m trying to limit the amount of disturbance I create. I was also thinking about wind and light patterns around my site and how they change the mood, so I want to use reflective material that can also catch the wind,” Robinson said.

Most projects are still in the beginning stages as students interact more with their sites and gain inspiration from drawing classes and other experiences at Green Oaks. Regardless of where these projects go, Green Oaks students feel they have plenty of time to devote. Sans extracurricular obligations and technological distractions, they find a lot more time in the day and focus less on time and more on place and the group they are with.

“What is today, Saturday? I don’t even know what day it is,” Robinson said.

Tags:  art Green Oaks green oaks biological fied station green oaks term installation nature

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Camille Brown
Camille Brown is a junior majoring in English literature and double minoring in educational policy and journalism. Previously, she served as editor-in-chief of her high school paper and a reporter for TKS. She spent the summer of 2012 freelancing for The Peninsula Gateway and is currently pursuing an independent study concerning the media’s influence on education.

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