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