Director's Note 8/1/15

August 1, 2015

I'm writing this on a quiet summer afternoon. The small children and their parents who attended today's session of Tuesdays in the Garden are gone; the artists who have been diligently rehearsing with Pegi Christiansen are taking a break; visitors are moving slowly and quietly in the sunshine, examining sculptures and referring to their maps.

I walked to the bridge today, the first opportunity I've had to check up on the most recent work we've done out there. In the course of repairing the south end, I learned a lot about the bridge's past, and that most of the repairs (which usually involved rebuilding one half or the other in the middle of the winter when it was easier to work from the ice below) were done by Lynden's staff. Bob, Sergio and Patrick had all participated in major and minor bridge projects; they could tell me how long various beams had been in place, what they were made of, and whether they were steam treated or covered in creosote. Over the past few years, variations in the water level of the Big Lake have taken a toll on the bridge's structure, exposing wood that would have been just fine had it stayed submerged. Some beams were succumbing to age and the depredations of nesting animals.

These days Lynden's staff is smaller and the demands on everyone's time are greater, so we outsource large projects like this. When the contractors first came to see the bridge, their first worry was about how long it would take to procure white oak beams of sufficient length. Fortunately, they found a source fairly quickly, and the beams are now covered by new decking that looks strangely out of place in its unweathered state. We've added steel cables along the railings to enhance safety, and while the design is simple and functional, and quite invisible from a distance, it will take some time and weather before the new parts of the bridge blend in with the old.

Our new land manager, Andy Yencha, began work just over two weeks ago, and he's been out learning the grounds, looking up plants and trying to identify blights, assessing damage after Sunday evening's storm, and wrestling with the rain garden in the parking lot. His new eyes have made it suddenly apparent how much in the landscape has changed since we opened five years ago. What was incremental to those of us who spend our working days here looks different to someone who is holding an original plan up beside an overgrown retention basin. Just as I appreciate the way artists help me see this place--the sculptures and the spaces within it--in different ways, I enjoy seeing the trees and plantings, the ponds and wildlife, through Andy's eyes. I expect to learn a lot from Andy, and he will be drawing on his long career as an educator with the University of Wisconsin-Extension to put together a series of programs on topics related to landscape and land management that we will share with you. Watch for the first of these in our fall schedule--and feel free to send suggestions for topics my way.

Much of what goes on at Lynden is ephemeral, from the weather to the installations: you have to be here to experience the storm, the temporary sculpture. This is most true for the human activities and interactions, some planned, some spontaneous, that animate Lynden from day to day. Heather Eiden wound up her four-week yoga session on Sunday by making chai, and the group listened to an impromptu lecture on the need to preserve wolves as they drank their tea. Heather has taught yoga at Lynden for several years, and as an artist she's been experimenting with ways to incorporate the sculpture collection into the class. She began by exploring parallels between the shapes of individual sculptures and yoga poses, but when Amy Kirschke at the Milwaukee Art Museum introduced her to the concept of slow looking, the connections between attentive observation and meditation became more obvious. This is the kind of development that is at the heart of Lynden's mission: to make Lynden a place where artists have opportunities and time to discover new ways to work with the collection and the landscape.

If you happen to stop in this week you may catch fleeting glimpses of two other projects in Lynden's laboratory. The porch is filled with the work of the teachers who participated in our 2015 Summer Institute: slide shows that integrate sound and image; documentation of outdoor, site-specific installations; and a day-by-day photo journal of the various projects and exercises they participated in with Prof. Laura Trafi-Prats (UWM Art Education), our graduate fellow, Anna Grosch, naturalist Naomi Cobb, and guest artists Santiago Cucullu, Nirmal Raja and Reggie Wilson. This temporary exhibition remains on view for a week or so.

You may also encounter Pegi Christiansen and her collaborators Theresa Columbus, Jennifer Holmes and John Loscuito in the gallery, rehearsing among Dan Torop's photographs. They are preparing for the October performances that will mark the end of Pegi's Distance project. The performances will be accompanied by an exhibition of collaborative work the four created (at Pegi's behest, and at a distance) over the preceding year. Theresa, Jennifer and John will disappear back to Baltimore, California and Florida shortly, returning in the fall. You can read about the Distance project here.

We continue to stay open late on Wednesdays (until 7:30 pm) in August, and there are a few slots left in our August camps. We have a family workshop and another opportunity to make prayer flags with artists-in-residence Pat Hidson and Tori Tasch coming up. Author Jenna Blum will be the guest of the Women's Speaker Series on August 12, and our last patio tour is scheduled for August 16. Of course the big event in August is the Backyard Barbecue on August 20--Braise, corn, a hog and ice cream are all accounted for--and we hope to see you there!


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