Down, Up, Down: Pine Mountain Breathing (2014). Digital video, Installation dimensions variable.
All of the works shown here are part of an array of art works that I am creating and curating over the course of several years to celebrate the exceptional biodiversity of Pine Mountain in southeastern Kentucky. The video Pine Mountain Breathing (2014), a 2 minute loop, features the dynamic relationship the mountain has with water. I made the video, while doing research for another artwork called “Lavish!” that is comprised of a textile meditation room and a set of artist’s books. The room is a large, cylindrical space made of sheer silk with mystical hoop-shaped “windows” that are hand-embroidered images of the twenty major ecological community types in the old growth forests on Pine Mountain.
I select and photograph very small sections (like transects used by field biologists) of the forest that include the most representative species of plant, animal, insect, fish, fungus, moss, microbe and lichen for each natural community.
From these images I develop designs that I print on silk fabric. These are then hand-embroidered in a collective process by volunteers who work in groups in temporary studios. Some of the embroiderers are from the region near the mountain while others are from Lexington, Kentucky; beginning in the Fall of 2015, silk panels will be shipped world wide to embroidery groups and individuals who want to participate.
The “Lavish!” artist’s books blend visual art with a poem sequence in a fictionalized voice of the botanist E. Lucy Braun (1889-1971) who conducted extensive fieldwork on Pine Mountain.
Extended thinking through connective aesthetics.
In 2012 I initiated a new series of courses that I list under the umbrella title “SITE.” SITE is an ongoing, upper-level, interdisciplinary course at Transylvania University, pairing art with other disciplines in order to generate creative and scholarly responses to particular sites, especially contested places and sites which have not been creatively examined and interpreted.
I have taught SITE three times now with the most recent focus, May 2015 “SITE: Biodiversity on Pine Mountain and Mountaintop Removal Mining, 2015.” This was listed as a Special Topic In Art, as Environmental Philosophy and as an Interdisciplinary course.
Through reading, writing, art making and experiential processes to create an immersive exploration developing a deeper understanding through a context responsive approach.
The May 2015 SITE Syllabus can be downloaded HERE.
Class projects are made public in various local, regional and national venues.
Zoé Strecker is a visual artist, writer and art professor at Transylvania University. Her commissioned sculptures are located across the United States. She has published poetry, essays, and a travel book. Recently she is the founder of Wild Places Creative, an organization through which she and others create art and curate artworks and journalistic projects that connect people to wild places and wilderness. She collaborates with the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust on a series of artists’ retreats on Pine Mountain in southeastern Kentucky. Strecker is also Visual and Performing Arts section editor for the academic journal, Cogent: Arts and Humanities. She teaches a series of special topic university courses called SITE, that pairs art with other disciplines for creative and intellectual responses to contested places, e.g. mountaintop removal coal mining regions. Zoé lives with her family on a small farm near the Kentucky River in Mercer County.