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- Mixed-media sculptor Jake Beckman uses Tropical Storm Irene as inspiration for residency
Fri, Jan 13, 2012 01:22 PM
POULTNEY-The William Feick Arts Center at Green Mountain College
is pleased to announce the successful culmination of artist Jake
Beckman's residency on campus. The sculpture that grew out of his
residency project-the façade of a large, simple boat located in the
flood buffer zone on the west side of campus-will be on display
through Jan. 20.
Beckman's residency marked the first of its kind sponsored by the
Feick Arts Center. "We couldn't be more pleased with the results,"
according to gallery director and assistant professor of art
Mr. Beckman arrived with an open mind, seeking inspiration from the
local environment and the college community. After brainstorming
with students in an advanced art course, and meeting with GMC's
geology professor John Van Hoesen, Beckman decided to create an art
piece addressing the concepts of flooding, man's impact on nature
and nature's impact on man, as well as our notions of (false)
Using the Poultney River and the still-present aftermath of
Tropical Storm Irene as a source of both inspiration and materials,
Jake set out with students to collect lumber and other debris left
on the banks after Irene's floodwaters receded.
Over 60 students participated in some capacity with Beckman's
project. Students collected truckloads of debris from both the
college's river bank and a Poultney resident's property where there
was a particularly high concentration of garbage. These efforts had
the dual intent of restoring the natural beauty of the riverbank as
well as sourcing no-cost material. Beckman used the collected
materials to construct the façade of a boat located in the flood
buffer zone on the west side of campus. The boat, measuring
approximately 30 feet across and six feet high, was constructed in
five days with the help of dedicated students and other GMC
According to Beckman, the structure "represents the measures we all
take to create a sense of security in the face of uncertain future
events, be they natural disasters or otherwise."
Photos courtesy of Kevin Coburn, Green Mountain
Jake Beckman sculpts a boat from many found materials during
his residency at Green Mountain College.
Beckman learned from professor Van Hoesen that many measures
Vermonters historically undertook to protect their land from
erosion (such as fortifying river banks and clearing channels)
actually increase the speed of the river during heavy rains. The
irony inherent in this concept and how it signifies our
interconnectedness with each other and our environment inspired
Beckman to construct the boat façade.
Practically, the resulting piece reminds us of the value of reusing
materials, and awakens us to our current degree of waste and
carelessness. Metaphorically, it is a symbol of fragile optimism:
learning from the past to forge new hope and strategies for the
future, while acknowledging the potential fallacy of protective
measures we take. In the end, the boat stands as a totem to a
community's ability to work together and Green Mountain College's
commitment to sustainable stewardship.
In his general art practice, Beckman's work strikes a tone that is
both somber and playful. He often uses the ingredients of the built
environment- coal, sand, iron ore-to explore the memory of a time
when Americans were more intimately connected to the processes that
constructed and sustained their material world. Through his work,
Beckman seeks to understand the contradiction between "progress"
(especially Western notions of growth and civilization) and
impermanence: humanity's role in a larger ecological context.
The gallery exhibition and viewing the boat project are both free
and open to the public. General gallery hours are Monday,
Wednesday, and Friday from 12-5 p.m. and Saturday from 10-2 p.m.,
or by appointment. Please note that the gallery will be closed over
Green Mountain College's winter break ending Jan. 16.