LINCOLN – Behind the Lincoln sculpture park's great double-helix gates along Highway 200 lies a whole different world in the Montana forest.
This Saturday, Sept. 29, Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild will conclude weeks, months and years of work with the display of several new pieces completed by 2018 artists in residence Cornelia Konrads, Kate Hunt, Adele O'Dwyer and Anne Yoncha.
On Friday, the Park still buzzed with activity as preparations had been finished, but the logistics of food, performance and balancing all of the other parts of an art showcase came down to the wire. Artistic director Kevin O'Dwyer (husband of musician and 2018 artist-in-residence Adele O'Dwyer) and board president Becky Garland walked and talked as they explained the work that went into the 2018 projects.
"This park was started in 2014," Garland said. "We invited five artists, and since then have balanced between two and three each year."
"It's a chance to be a part of the cultural heritage of Lincoln," Garland continued. "Pieces are built each year in the environmental medium, using the environment, the materials found in the environment, to make their work."
Montana is at the heart of the two installations and the music and poetry that are part of 2018's program. Walking through the park, Kevin O'Dwyer and Garland run into Anne Yoncha, a third-year MFA student at the University of Montana chosen as the 2018 Emerging Artist whose piece is both bleeding edge while being focused on a simple concept -- capturing the movement of trees.
The piece, named “Tree Talk,” "highlights living plant forms within BPSW, particularly Ponderosa pine trees." Yoncha has connected 30 sensors to 10 trees in order to make a kind of music. Each sensor feeds into a circuit that creates a sound wave dependent on the information being fed from the natural world into the sensor. She is working in collaboration with Gerard Sapés, a UM Ph.D. candidate working on Ponderosa pines to show the invisible processes inside trees.
Yoncha, dressed in a hat, Sitka gloves and a scarf, said she can already start to tell patterns in how the sensors make sound.
"I can tell when more people are driving by, and at night the sound is definitely different," Yoncha said.
And she's picked up a lot about how exactly 12-volt deep-cycle batteries work to power the sensors that a DJ will then attempt to spin into something like music in another part of the performance.
Other, more readily recognizable music is also available this year. Adele O'Dwyer, a renowned cellist, is the first ever composer-in-residence at Sculpture in the Wild. She's been working with Lincoln schoolchildren and two Montana Native American poets, Heather Cahoon and Victor Charlo.
O'Dwyer has passed Irish tunes and learned Montana music from Lincoln students as part of the Montana Irish Music Exchance (MIME) while working to create music for a song cycle with poems from Cahoon and Charlo. It's been exciting for the town, according to Kevin O'Dwyer.
Further on, Cornelia Konrads currently untitled piece breaks into the light and breaks apart itself. A bridge some 30 feet long and made of repurposed barn boards and Lincoln-area pine dowels, the outside edges are sturdy, but in the middle everything comes apart and the boards hover in the air in the act of unmaking, or perhaps coming together. Kevin O'Dwyer said the piece gives an "illusion of crumbling."
"This is very much different from gallery or symposium artists," Kevin O'Dwyer said about the creative process. "You don't have to conceive or build a piece in three weeks," in a studio, but for the artists invited here, all that happens in just that time frame.
That kind of experience can also be a dislocating one for artists. But for Kate Hunt, a Kalispell artist, this time has been about confronting how she couldn't recreate Montana in Montana.
"I went to the Midwest and dislocated Montana in the Midwest," Hunt said. "But in Montana you can't do that because it's Montana."
Hunt's piece is one that looks secretive. She doesn't want people to come with preconceived notions. But "Untitled dark trio" demands consideration once it’s found. It's made of Portland yellow-baling twine made from Mexican agave plant threads, steel bridge pieces from Kalispell, wax and western newspapers.
"In Montana you can think your own private, deep thoughts," Hunt said.
This piece was inspired partly by her love of hiking and the ability to find the unexpected glories of a wildflower or a tree or a mountain range set against the big sky, discovery that happens anew every time you look up.
"I'm hoping people actually miss it at first, and then come back with a sense of discovery to see it again," Hunt said.