Home again, home again, jiggity jig

It was a gorgeous final day here in the park.  I am heading home tomorrow morning.  Today I presented a small quilt work to the park as a first installment of promised work.  Below are some snap shots of the work along with some thoughts on how it came to be.

In a part of the cave called Gothic Avenue, there is a drawing on the ceiling, very different from the usual “historical graffiti” that riddles the area.  I was quite taken with this image and wondered why it was created.  Why a head and not a name?

Below it my finished quilt piece, about 18″ or so across.  There is the head from Gothic Avenue and some ‘zig-zag’ imagery that is also found in the cave and carbon dated to be attributed to prehistoric visitors to the cave.  Some of the material for this quilt was found at second hand shops in the local area and then dyed or over-dyed with the walnuts I found in the park.

I’ll put my ‘formal’ statement below at the end of this post.  I felt the need for it to have a statement accompanying it as time goes on, as I do not know how or if it will be shown and I want it to be well represented.

After dropping the quilt off to its new home, I went on one last hike with ‘the tree guys’ looking for white poplar trees which are on the list of Undesirables.  It was a lovely day for a hike and we located an American Chestnut tree they have been keeping an eye on.  So far it seems healthy and is about 9″ across at the truck.  That’s a good size for a tree that was wiped out by the blight.  It was good to see.  Hope springs eternal as they say.

Tonight I will go and pay one last visit to the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave, one of my favorite spots in the park.  (Thanks Mom and Sue for this snap shot of me there!)  And I’ll say goodnight to my bats out by the park buses and the coyotes that sometimes howl at night.  It has been a magical time here full of amazing sights to see and insights to be discovered.  I am excited to get centered back in my own space and see what work unfolds after this incredible opportunity.  See y’all back in the ‘Nati!

Compass Quilt

Small work presented to Mammoth Cave National Park

By Amy Bogard, Artist-in-Residence, October, 2010

Having only a month to take in the vast array of fascinating topics, imagery, history and experiences that Mammoth Cave National Park has to offer, much of my residency has been spent simply trying to soak up as much as possible via cave tours, hikes and conversations with staff, rangers, scientists and folks in the Cave City area.  I took thousands of photos, sketched whenever possible and journaled my experiences and impressions of being here.

That said, much of my fine art work is process oriented.  Often I am more interested in how something is made, and the integrity with which it was created, than necessarily the finished product.  It was important to me to create a small bit of work while living and working here in the park.  Early in my stay I went on the Echo River Spring hike led by Ranger Dave Spence.  There I learned that I could collect and process walnuts if I was industrious enough to do so.  I did so and began dyeing some fabrics and old doilies that I had purchased at the Caveland Antique Mall in Cave City.

Taking as many tours as possible while here in the park enabled me to hear various stories and history as interpreted by all of the multi-talented guides.  I scribbled notes in the dark during tour stops as much as I could and wrote what I could remember, and what impressed me most later in my journal.  Early on a couple of stories resonated with me that relate to this work.  One was of Stephen Bishop being asked to try and sketch out a map of the cave from memory.  Apparently, he did just that.  When the map was put to the test by a cartographer, Bishop’s map was found to be nearly spot on with regard to positions of pathways and distances between points.  It seemed Mr. Bishop was gifted with an internal compass.

Later in Mammoth Cave history, German cartographer Max Kaemper asked for permission to do a formal assessment of known cave passageways.  He was only permitted to do so if the final document would bear no measurements or compass points that would lead to controversy for the owners of land above ground.

As I contemplated all of the information that I had been exposed to in my first couple of weeks here, I felt overwhelmed; not sure where to go or what to do beyond the gathering of notes and processing of walnuts.  I had no bearing as to what direction to head or where to go from here – so I looked to my notes and my sketchbook where I had been captivated by images made by cave goers both prehistoric and pre-national park.

Using the ‘zig-zag’ motif from Early American Indians and ‘the head drawing’ found in Gothic Avenue, I created a compass of sorts.  It is created out of material I brought with me from home (including some I ‘weathered’ in my garden) as well as the walnut-dyed, ‘found’ fabrics I got in Cave City.  In the body of the figure, I have embroidered a heart.  There is a Native American notion about direction which states there are 7 – North, South, East, and West, along with above and below, which I felt is fitting to being here at Mammoth Cave where everything is above or below.  The 7th and perhaps most important direction of all is one that I believe Stephen Bishop possessed.  It is one’s center.  Your heart.  I have struggled a bit to find my center, my own internal compass, while here as Artist in Residence and the exercise of attempting to do so has been life changing and valuable.

Please accept this fabric ‘sketch’ of my first impressions of being here at Mammoth Cave National Park.  I am eager and excited to interpret the rest of my findings in a larger more formalized work at a later date.

Thank you so much to all of the people who made this experience such a rich and rewarding one for me.

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