Travel Theme: Art


A few months ago, I was wandering in a nature preserve near my house. This isn’t a place where one is likely to find many other people and rumors abound about suspect activity that may occur there. It is a deserted place where the unexpected intrusion of human hands in the uncultivated preserve — whether it’s dumped belongings, graffiti on a bench, or remnants of the farm abandoned decades ago — is usually startling. It simply isn’t what you expect to see. Imagine, then, how surprised I was one day several months ago when I wandered down a path I had taken several times before, to see this:

Blue flags in a tree

How did those get there? A closer look revealed that it wasn’t unintentional.

Blue sky, green branches, blue flags

I was awed by the randomness of this as well as by its beauty. I can’t explain it, but it made me wonder about its purpose — or if it even needed a purpose or explanation. It reminded me of Wallace Stevens’ Anecdote of the Jar, the flags imposing their own order upon the tree. The flags made me think about the unexpected beauty of the plastic sheeting with its vibrant blue hue, the beauty of a clear blue Spring sky, and the beauty of the tall, majestic tree. The manmade objects can’t surpass the beauty of the natural setting and they don’t compliment it either, but as a whole, as another object that is no longer just tree, or just flag but rather Tree-and-Flag, it is an intriguing composition, a work of art.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Art & Nature Park, I noticed not blue flags, but bands of red fabric around trees. They were part of an installation titled FLOW: Can you see the river.

Red around trunk on high ground

These red markers may appear randomly placed, but their locations were chosen intentionally to indicate high water marks during a 100 year flood. Mary Miss’s installation is meant to make the viewer interact with the environment and the exhibit and to consider the impact of the river on the city. I found the installation and the accompanying website fascinating. But, even without the information regarding the ecology of the river, the wetlands and floodplains, I thought the red bands on the trees were pleasing, similar to the blue flags in a tree, in a lonely, far less-frequented park, 15 miles across town.

Can you see the river? Follow the links to the installation website

And it reminded me of Stevens’ poem. By being in the wilderness, we change it, just like art changes us.

This post is my contribution to Ailsa’s weekly Travel Theme. This week’s theme: art. Check out posts from others participating by following the links on Ailsa’s blog.

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7 responses to “Travel Theme: Art

  1. This is a cool surprise. I’m always fascinated by what is caught by the trees after a ride in the wind. Cool images.

  2. I agree they’re a nice surprise, but I hope someone is looking after them. They won’t still be beautiful after the winter.

    • I will have to check soon to see if they are still there. I took this pictures a few months ago, the day before I injured my foot, so I haven’t hiked back into this area. I’m curious what they look like now after a few months in the sun — if they are even there at all.

  3. What a delightful surprise, that blue looks striking against the green needles.

    • It looks as if someone climbed up the tree to tie these into the branches. I’d bet that they chose the bright blue because of its striking appearance.