Another installation done! Gateway was commissioned for Southern Vermont College’s new Admissions building, housed in the mansion’s gatehouse. The idea was to create a site-specific work that related to Identity Tapestry (the college commissioned Identity Tapestry Iteration #8 for permanent display in their main building), tying together the upper and lower campuses and making prospective students immediately feel part of the community.
I used locally quarried paving stones from the college to create a cairn with a gateway element as the focus of the piece. Cairns are piled of stones used as path-markers on trials. Making one which is also a gateway from the college’s foundation materials has obvious symbolism.
For the action it is similar to Identity Tapestry in that participants select a color of yarn and wrap it around statements. In this case though, statements are less about identity as a whole and are instead in two categories. They start on the left wall, pass their yarn through the stone gateway and then continue on the right wall.
On the left side are statements centered around where a prospective student might be coming from, physically, intellectually and emotionally as they enter college. “I come from a small town”, “I am the first person in my family to go to college”, “I always assumed I wold go to college”, “my family believes in my dreams”, and unlike Identity Tapestry, statements do contradict each other, such as “I never thought I would go to college”. I looked through incoming student profiles and spoke with the admissions team to get a sense of the commonalities in incoming students. Statements like “I love to be in nature” came out of that, as I’m sure the natural beauty around the college attracts many of the students.
On the right side are statements about student’s hopes and dreams for the future, also drawn from student profiles. I went for the drives and commonalities behind various fields and professions rather than simply listing them, which would always leave someone out. For example “I want to speak for people with no voices” could apply to a defense attorney, or an animal rights activist, a civil rights leader, a politician, a social worker or any number of other professions.
When the participant has marked the left wall, passed through the gateway and then marked the right wall, they are left with a fair amount of yarn still on the ball. Unlike Identity Tapestry I made all of them an equal and generous length, and there are no stones in the middle. They then toss the ball over the edge of the right-hand wall, which is shaped after the silhouette of Southern Vermont Mountains. This will make each person’s yarn disappear upwards towards the sky without being broken by a harsh angular line.
Process on site-
As usual the many (over a hundred) balls of yarn were all uniquely hand-dyed for the piece. The new challenge with this piece was the deceptively simple-seeming arrangement of balls (it took me two full days to do). It was an exercise in placing, untangling, and placing again. Trying to color balance with every color being different, with arrangements that might tangle if you moved something to adjust for color harmony. It would have undoubtedly been easier to simply make a spectrum of color rather than trying to balance the colors while making them look random, but I wanted it to resemble a crowd of different types of people rather than an organized system. I did do the beginning of each strand as a spectrum though. Make of that what you will.
The statements plaques in this piece went perfectly- laser-etched statements filled with black acrylic, fused to the plaque bases. The oval shape had the advantage of not only suggesting thought bubbles but also not catching the yarn the way the tag/label-style statements in Identity Tapestry do. The piece is also designed to be re-usable, so that each year incoming and prospective students can participate.
Overall I’m pleased with the piece and so glad it will be part of Southern Vermont College’s new building.