Who goes to an Earth Day event on their vacation? My boo and I do. Because we’re epic nerds.
Before we got nerdy, we did the vacationy things, have no fear. There was junkin’ and yarn-ing (that roving? hand processed and dyed by the shop owner from her very own sheep), ate of the beefy goodness (burgers made from local, grass fed, humanely raised cattle slaughtered by the country’s only slaughterhouse run on Buddhist principles, I shit you not) and drank of the local brew at a pub called the Grumpy Troll in the Troll Capital of the Midwest, Mt. Horeb. We also drank wine and played Combat Chess (it’s like regular chess, but you throw all your pieces at your opponent’s king with no regard for their safety or a strategy of any kind, in effort to end the game as quickly as possible) at Baraboo’s fabulous wine bar, Con Amici, the owners of which will proudly tell you how they compost all their food waste and recycle every possible thing.
So there was already kind of a theme brewing.
Then the lovely proprietress of Raven House, (one of my all time favorite places to find old keys, doorknobs, silverware and the odd baby head) hands me a flier as we’re getting ready to leave her shop and informs me that it’s for an art exhibit involving art made entirely from recycled materials. I love art, and I love junk, so, perfect.
We went assuming that was it. But it was actually an entire Earth Day shindig put on in the college gym with everything from the Madison Herpetological Society to local archeologists, eagle, crane, prairie and wetland conservationists, soap makers, bee keepers, sorghum farmers, artists and? the Coast Guard.
I’m an information junkie. I love learning about absolutely everything. On my bookshelf you will find subjects ranging from the history of the spice trade to forensic psychology and criminology textbooks, the world history of prostitution to quantum theory.
So I will actually sit and talk with the Coast Guard guy about ships knots, and the sorghum farmer about harvesting and processing the cane, and the archeologist about the earthworks in the area and the new technology used to find them under a tree canopy and a foot of leaf litter, and be utterly fascinated the entire time. No, I did not thrive in college. Too intellectually stifling. So yeah, gabbing for half an hour with eagle conservationists about roosting habits was a totally worthwhile way to spend my vacation.
And if you think all that has nothing to do with art, you may have never asked a sampling of artists where they get their inspiration. Up in Sauk County, a lot of them get it from the gorgeous countryside they live in and the sincere desire to preserve it.
Which was what this art was all about.
These are only a few of them. There were a good dozen plus. Everything from kinetic sculpture to quilting. Every piece was made from junk. Even the ribbons on each of the pieces was made from recycled material by a local fiber artist.
There are many reasons I love Baraboo, but one of the big ones is their focus on the land and keeping it healthy. One of the founding fathers of the modern conservation movement, Aldo Leopold, hails from up there, and his family maintains an educational facility in the area.
I’m a conservation nut from way back. This gal composts, recycles, buys local, organic and humanely raised, rages against the Monsanto machine, and tries repeatedly (and unsuccessfully thus far, but hope springs eternal) to convince her parents to convert that ridiculous waste of space that is the American lawn into a mini farm.
That attitude has made it into my work in the form of lots of salvaged parts. My junk chimes are all…junk. Stuff that would end up in a landfill or rotting away in a garage. I dig that ethic. I dig that there’s an entire passel of artists that are all about that ethic, too.
Yeah. Good vacation.