Statement at reception for Gorrill Land Earthworks:

My class of four students along with Professor Matt Burke went to the land to observe. We were to observe the land, and from that derive an earthwork. This activity to observe became a transformative experience that led to this piece.

Initially, I saw the land as a whole, and felt a distinction between it and my presence. This idea slowly evolved as I walked through, trying to observe and see everything around me. I will read three quotes from my journal that day.

    “A collection of trees creates its own community, and I walk towards it. The closer I get to the trees, the longer the grass becomes. Do I make my step higher to limit the contact I make with the blades, or simply move through it?”

  “while from a far the field holds a consistency in appearance, upon closer inspection I see the varying elements that make it a whole.”

 “As I stand still in the middle of this vastness, my body is rooted and unmoved, but the hairs on my head are synchronized with the grass and the wind. I am here. I am alive. I am part of the earth.”

By the end of the experience, I realized my interconnection with the earth and how we existed together. I also figured that I would not have gotten to this conclusion without the act of observing.

We as humans have created a system for ourselves to alleviate our fears of the unknown. We have conventions and ideas of what things are supposed to be. We blindly follow these, and fail to see what’s around us, for what they really are. I had to let go of all these conventions and be present, and look in order to see.

I made all of these observations and reread them many times, and thought of three-dimensional visual responses to what I saw. I then realized that the most impactful part of the experience was the act of observing itself.

My idea was ambitious and heavily interactive. For it to work, I had to think of a material that would enable functionality. The wood provided this, while maintaining the connection with nature, as everyone knows, wood comes from trees.

With my sculpture I wanted participants to see and realize what they are not seeing. I made the stairs because it provides an elevated view-an opportunity to see farther and see the greatness of the land. In contrast to this, I created blinds, with the wooden planks. I want the piece to evoke not only a desire to look and see, but also the possibility of obstruction.

This entire project has transformed my relationship to the land. At the beginning of the semester, I tried to think of an artist statement. I said “I make art to understand myself, the world, and my place in it.” Making this earthwork led me closer to understanding my place in this world.

Mark Stairway to Heaven