Final Reflections- Kate Aitchison, MFA Printmaking, 2016
As I sit here in my RISD studio reflecting on my thoughts as a Maharam STEAM fellow, I can’t help but think about how grateful I was to have the opportunity to return to a familiar location with an intentionality of making art, learning about science and formulating visual communication. Working closely with scientists and non-profits educators elevated my understanding of the place and how to produce an understanding of that place from many different angles.
I have always felt attached to the Colorado Plateau and to a myriad of specific locations within in, especially rivers and canyons, soaring sandstone cliffs, and having the ability to see for hundreds of miles in every direction while simultaneously feeling small and a part of it all. My feelings rival that of any interpersonal relationship I have and yet its always been hard for me to articulate that feeling to others, and articulate those feelings in my own art work. It has always been an “intangible”. It is something I’m still working on, but somehow, over the course of the summer, working in a variety of ways to communicate visually different aspects of the Colorado River watershed and the importance of its existence within the Colorado Plateau and greater Western United States, something shifted. Working with scientists taught me the value of clear and literal visual tools to communicate very specific scientific concepts. Working with youth taught me how to translate complicated scientific ideas and greater topics in conservation into simple bits that resonated with meaning. Creating a specific visual language catered to a certain audience taught me the value of specificity and intention that I have now been able to translate into my own, more metaphorical and emotional art practice.
I am beginning to put together all the pieces.
Images of Final Grand Canyon Food Web for USGS use. (all imagery originally block prints that have been digitized and put together into this food web)
Grand Canyon Aquatic Base Food Web
DETAILS from food web
Flannelmouth Sucker (native fish)
Desert Spiny Lizard
Ultimately, this piecing together of art, science, conservation, and collaboration is, for me, a life long project. This fellowship was a stepping stone on my path to finding the connectedness between the things that I love and to show other people, from all walks of life, that everything is more connected than it may first appear. I wanted to show scientists the importance of art as a visual communication tool, and I began to. I wanted to show youth the importance of connecting with place on many different levels, and I began to. And I wanted to show everyone I met that art and science can work symbiotically to create new things neither one can accomplish on its own. I see this project more as a beginning than as an end, and I hope to work more in this realm as I move forward beyond graduate school and into the next phases of my life.
Below you will find a few images from my most recent body of work, a collection of monotypes created in response to the summer and my connection with Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau. Working with maps as well as personal memories of place, I am weaving together imagery that represents the landscape, the way we abstract the landscape into flat, categorical measurements, and how those measurements and mis-measurements have led us to this tenuous place we occupy today. Water, especially Colorado River water is becoming a more and more precious commodity as western populations continue to grow. There is no easy answer, only the knowledge that we will reach a tipping point, and something will have to give. This is my opportunity to define, through visual means, what this place means to me and how I interact with the political framework surrounding these beloved, endangered landscapes. I couldn’t have made these without my experience this summer and I am glad to have been able to develop such a rich body of work because of it.