Pegi Christiansen: Distance I

November 6, 2014

This is the first of what will be a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

Executive Director Polly Morris mentioned that artist and educator Paul Druecke would be bringing out a class from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and suggested I contact him. This excited me! I used to teach at MIAD and the students tend to be full of ideas. They proved true to form.

I pulled up in front of MIAD at 4:20 on October 16, 2014. The class, titled "Post Studio Practices," has seven students. Paul, who has a temporary installation at Lynden, asked if my walk and talk about distance could include all of them. I had prepared eight questions, so one for each student plus Paul. Perfect!

After the two carloads of students met up at Lynden, I walked with them to three of the temporary sculptures, Sightseer, Feast, and Seedpod, as well as Open-Air Writing Desk, while I asked questions. Two topics came up repeatedly when they responded.

Many brought up the importance of distance. They appreciated being away from their families in order to develop their own identities. “I needed breathing space from my family,” is how one student put it. In another case, a student realized she was mimicking her parents in ways she wanted to change. A third student explained she had developed a closer relationship with her father from a distance. “We were not in the moment,” she said. On the phone they were able to talk about family dynamics and then work through problems in what she described as “a healthier way” when she returned home.

A number of students had strong reactions about technology and distance. Michael Collazo called Facebook “fake” because people create a certain persona. Two agreed with Michael and gave the example of students getting scared off by assertive Facebook comments that didn’t really express a person’s full personality. Some said you present yourself in a certain way no matter when or how you communicate.

Evin Sagduyu has grandparents who live in Turkey. His family used to visit every summer, but it has been four years since the last trip. “Skype is not the same because you aren’t interacting,” Evin said. “When I am there I am involved; Skype is a routine.” Nick Kinsella, in counterpoint, sometimes feels closer to people he communicates with online who live in other countries than with people in the same room.

Two surprises happened. First, we got lost. Of course we weren’t really lost. It is impossible to lose sight of the service road or the pond. However, on our way over to view David Robbins’s Open-Air Writing Desk, we approached it using a different route than I usually take. Paul and I both needed to backtrack to find it. I like getting disoriented. It shakes up my senses and I notice things I hadn't before.

I have explored Lynden day and night, and during all four seasons of the year, but had never experienced sunset. The picture shows my first. The sky cleared an hour before we departed from MIAD after days of rain and clouds making it an extra-special second surprise.

Pegi Christiansen - Distance visits
Photo: Paul Druecke

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