The Complexities of Landscape

A warm day, high cloud slowly lowering as the day passed. Jut now the cloud obscured the low sun. With luck, we shall have rain. Here by the lake, the trees are in full color as you can see in this view out our studio windows.

Friday evening we attended a presentation by a regional non-profit focused on creating large tracts of conserved land dedicated to renewing the surrounding landscape. The presentations were thorough and oddly disturbing. While the presenters carefully explored the science, history, and ethics of landscape restoration and ecology, they somehow managed to evoke a pre-contact world devoid of people, erasing twelve thousand years of co-evolution between Indigenous people and the land.

It was likely inevitable, so during the Q&A I carefully pointed out the omission. The presenters did not really grasp my point, but I am told the audience did, responding audibly to the word “erasure”. To their credit the presenters and members of their board approached Jennie and me after the event, apologized, and promised to change their presentation to more accurately reflect the role of Native people in the North American landscape. Interestingly, they did not take our contact information.

Yesterday we visited the exhibition, Of Land and Local, at Shelburne Farms. This yearly exhibit delves into the work of complementary artists concerned with the relationship of people and landscape. It occupies a beautifully designed barn on the shores of Lake Champlain which allows inside and outside to meet in the exhibition space.

The show is always deeply engaging and thought-provoking; this year is no different as it is filled with visually memorable work that will surely take a while to unpack. Much of the work explores the contested nature of the landscapes we inhabit, as well as our willful forgetting that our very lives remain dependent on land and water.

After viewing the show and exploring the nearby autumn landscape we wandered up the hill to the Inn. To our great surprise and pleasure they were still open (today is the last day of their season) and had space for us to enjoy a late breakfast overlooking their gardens and the lake. Yesterday was indeed a lovely late autumn day!

 

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