Why art in the middle of nowhere? Nowhere is just down the road in my sparsely populated western state. As a pretty shy person, the middle of nowhere is as close to heaven as one can get on earth, so making art out here suits me well.
I’m inspired by land art, yet I have no desire to scar the land any more than we humans already have. Scarring the land is a reality in our modern lives as we extract resources from the earth and capture sun and wind to power our homes, cars and gadgets. My aim is not to comment on the good vs. evil of resource use, but rather to create installations that leave little trace as to their presence.
The middle of nowhere is also a state of mind. I’ve been in an urban center and felt the same sense of solitude I have in the vast prairie. The middle of nowhere has also manifest itself in me as a deep loneliness, regardless of the geographic location.
Born in Kansas and raised in rural southeastern Colorado, my adventures out in the middle of nowhere have never been very far away. While growing up my family took many road trips, either for a day or for weeks, around the West. We always got out of the car and explored, finding all sorts of interesting things with fascinating shapes and histories unknown. I grew to love the vast wide-open spaces and skies, along with the treasures to be found on the ground and the ancient and contemporary stories lived out around the area. Driving back and forth from home to college at the University of Kansas on the eastern side of the state, I spent hours on the long stretches of land and sky gazing at the clouds, the fields, the colors and the seemingly endless line of highway in front of me.
After living in the South and along the East Coast for a decade while my husband served in the USMC, we longed for the open space of the West again and landed back in Colorado for a time, then moved north to Wyoming in 2001.
Recently I came to a fork in the road of my artistic journey after 20+ years of making coiled vessels, and the questions “What compels me to create? Is it the final product or the process?” kept haunting my thoughts. Process won the argument over product, but what to do with two decades of work and accomplishments? Dispose of all the experience and technique? What now?
Instead of the fork in the road requiring a hard turn, it turned out to be a gradual curve. A pilgrimage to the Spiral Jetty with my husband and daughter (photo of her and I on the iconic work below), studying land and environmental artists, and reflections on the land and environmental issues facing us here in the West inspired me to focus on a process that quenched my creative thirst yet was not directed toward creating permanent art objects.
Many of my coiled vessels included dried plant materials from my garden – now some of these natural materials form the basis of my work along with leather, copper and other assorted materials. Placed in the environment, these objects are not meant to be seen and experienced by an audience, but are intimate ephemeral works that I capture with a photo and geographic coordinates.
How can we make the audience a partner in adventure instead of a consumer? – Frie Leysen
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