& carlton sturgis abbott
+ MOUNTAIN LAKE WORKSHOP
PATHWAYS: APPALACHIAN TRAIL FRIEZE WORKSHOP
by Howard Risatti
In the way it uses chance imagery, the Appalachian Trail Frieze workshop, begun in 1994, is similar in design to John Cage’s 1988 and 1990 workshops and to Ray Kass’ 1991 and 1993 workshops. Conceived as an ongoing collaborative project, the workshop was conducted in the Jefferson National Forest by former workshop assistant Joe Kelley in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service.1 Inspiration for the project came from an earlier activity, that of photographing the Ripplemead site on the New River, known fondly as “John’s Place,” where Cage acquired most of the rocks he later used in his two painting workshops at Mountain Lake.
From this project came the idea of giving participants paper and drawing implements or film and asking them to draw or photograph places of interest to them while hiking on and near the Appalachian Trail in the area around Mountain Lake.2 The photographs, which are personal records of individual participants’ visual experiences of both physical places and seasonal changes, were collaged together using chance procedures to create a long frieze. The frieze has a narrative quality in the way it unfolds in time as viewers move through the installation, thereby creating something akin to the experience of walking along an actual forest trail. The drawings, installed in different size plastic box-like frames and randomly placed above and below the frieze, punctuate the viewer’s passage along the frieze, imitating encounters with unexpected details seen along the trail.
1 In 1990, Kass, who had become a Shinto priest, blessed eight black walnut trees in the Jefferson National Forest that had been selected for Jiro Okura for his Mountain Lake Screen Tachi workshop. This ceremony was also conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service.
2 The Appalachian Trail Frieze project also influenced the 2013 Mountain Lake Workshop titled “Three Graces in Public: Digital Montages.” Named after the Mann family farm near Lexington, Virginia, where it occurred, it also was a collaborative project; however, it was carried out using digital technology (cameras and cell phones) as opposed to wet film.