Disappearing Barns Update

Within the carpenter's studio

An early glimpse into the progression of my installation, “Disappearing Barns.” (I am still in the building phase).

The Progressing Building of the Barn

As I approach another birthday, I take time to reflect, as I always seem to do at the beginning of each of my new years.  The past year has continued to present me with expanding artistic opportunities (or simply more of a willingness of my mind to seek avenues of expression), the ever changing nature of my once stick straight hair, moves of home as well as changes of work-place, and the unfortunately reliable destruction of barns.

Love this!

One long standing barn, across the Winooski River from my family’s barn, collapsed and released years of mounting tension during a winter storm of damaging winds.  Though the structure only recently appeared as an aged spider web of negative space loosely framed by the reminder of an intentional geometric composition, I still mourned its loss.  Witnessing the long death of the barn was the same as witnessing the emaciation of an elder: all you can do is hope they are not in pain and remind them who you are from time to time.

The carpenter's saw

I am not arguing that we keep a tight grip on things (especially of material matter) that are outdated* or simply at the end of their lifeline (everything has a life-cycle, other than plastic bags…so it seems).  Nor am I advocating that we step backward into a nostalgic mindset.  I am fighting for the acknowledgment of the past and the moment of silence-of appreciation-those old barns deserve and that the history of our state is due.

(*Conventional dairy farming is not sustainable.  I do not support the use of pesticides or GMO crops. But I am wedded to the idea of a locally focused organic (or minimally treated) farming practice.  And part of my forgiving process is accepting my family’s role in the inoculation of heifer cows with hormones, the selling of newborn bulls because of their “lack of worth,” the un-natural idea that we are supposed to consume and market another animal species’ milk, as well as the contribution to evolving phosphate pollution.  I do not even drink milk…this is an area of conflict within my practice and within my mind, I know).

Barns, on the other hand, are a straightforward structural housing of: animals, hay, equipment, or materials, but always, always of memories.

Another barn view

Maybe the pain that I feel when I see a kidnapped barn is that it is lost and will not be the formation of memories.  Rare is the foundation that does not provide some comfort in telling us that people have treaded the soil before.  Maybe I ache in anticipation of the breaking bones of my own barn.  Like each blade of grass and each branch (old and young, dead and growing), the barn has become a member of my family.  The only talking back is the reminiscence of memory: playing hide and seek within the hay loft, feeding calves with pails adorning rubber nipple like suckers, brushing the one milk cow who let me come close enough to name her, the musty smell of ripping open a bale of twinned hay, the loud buzzing of the bulk tank and milking suction devices while artificial hands pulled milk out of the soft, pink, peached-fuzz teats of the cows (which as a child were something to be very curious about).  The barn also reminds me that I fell in cow shit quite often, that I renounced my farming past when I reached 5th grade, and that I stopped visiting my cows at the same time I stopped drinking their milk and eating their flesh.

Frames and stretcher bars awaiting life

By working with local carpenter and family friend, John Messier, I have been able to re-build a barn.  The best part of death is the renewal that arrives somewhere in the world- someone is born the second you die.  My barn will also serve as the subject of my long anticipated installation within one of my fields.  The cookie cutter houses, that will suffocate the barn in time, will gradually be added, until the day that I dismantle the barn, and then give the land over to their power.  If you drive along North Williston Rd. in the coming weeks, I encourage you to gaze at the landscape and search for the barn.

My Autumn Barn Rises, 2002

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