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Mapping the West, part one: Camping in Southern Utah

May 12, 2009

During the past couple weeks, a group of BYU artists hosted a group of artists from Wirral Metropolitan College (Liverpool, England). I thought it a great opportunity to

a) meet new people, both from BYU as well as from Liverpool

b) rub shoulders with some of my favorite former professors, as well as former classmates.

c) have a chance to go camping in Southern Utah,

d) make art

So I took some days off from work and volunteered to help out in any way that I could.

Here is the description of the project as cited on the Wirral Metropolitan College blog dedicated to the project:

‘Mapping the West’ is an international collaborative project between Wirral Met BA Fine Art Printmaking department and the Fine Art department at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, USA.

For two weeks, from the 25th April to the 8th of May 2009, BYU will be hosting ten of our students and two members of staff. We will be sharing our experience and delivering a master class in book arts production with the intention of producing an exhibtion of artist’s books based on our responses to the map of the Escalante region of southern Utah.

It was a really good experience. Although it was definitely hectic at times, it was also rewarding, and I’m glad I could participate. The first few days were orientation: showing the new group the ropes, visits to Salt Lake city and Walmart ;). Then we had 3-day camping trip in Escalante. We visited Bryce Canyon,

camped in the Petrified Forest,

hiked to Calf Creek falls,

(some folks were brave enough to take a dip in the freezing water–I wasn’t one of them)

Ate delicious dutch oven dinner and had a brief lesson on the history of Escalante at Wulf Barsch’s gorgeous home (in Escalante),

(This is his all-wood, no-nails barn)

and roamed around in the Devil’s Garden.

Knowing that as soon as I returned from the camping trip we would each be making a piece of art for a collaborative show, I found myself thinking a lot about my relationship to Utah–and also my relationship to the British Isles (which really has become my second home).

Here’s a blurb I wrote for WMC’s Mapping the West Blog:

Thursday 30 April

Reflections on the camp out and the cultural differences of BYC and WMC

Lili Hall BYU student

When I was a little girl, I would go on road trips with my dad. He would give me a map of Southern Utah and tell me that I could pick any point on any road, and off we would go. As a result, I’ve been exposed to many rugged terrains off the beaten path, and the sometimes barren/ sometimes lush (it all depends on elevation, the latitude, and the time of year) landscape of Escalante is very familiar and homey to me. I was excited to go to Bryce Canyon with the Liverpool group, though, since this is one famous site in my own home state that I’ve never seen with my own eyes.

I found that being with people who were seeing this kind of landscape for the first time influenced the way I viewed things–I kept wondering what our new friends were thinking of the mountains, of the highways, the dry air, the red rocks, the heights, the blue sagebrush, the s’mores…of everything. Viewing the sites through their eyes gave me a bit of a fresh perspective on the land I sometimes take for granted. I paid attention to the comments people made–both from the BYU group as well as the Liverpool group. The Liverpudlians expressed things such as “I feel so small” or “everything is so big,” while those of us who grew up here said things like “even though I’ve never been to this very spot, it still feels like coming home.” I don’t typically realize just how cowboy-ish this countryside really is until I’m with people with lovely English accents!

In October, I came home from a yearlong study program in England. Having lived in the English countryside so recently, I can’t help but juxtapose the two places (Utah and England) in my mind as I embark on this Mapping the West art collaboration. The two landscapes are so vastly different… but they’re the two parts of the world most familiar to me.
I think that travel impacts the way one sees and appreciates their own home. The fact that I’ve seen Liverpool gives me a bit of insight as to where my new friends are coming from as they come out to visit. I can’t help but link the two places in my mind as I approach this Mapping the West book arts project, and I think that my piece for the show will be an exploration of my thoughts as to how the two places and their people are (or are not) linked insofar as my own experiences are concerned.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Christopher_Bitner_Hayes permalink
    June 11, 2009 10:13 am

    I just browsed the pictures of your Escalante trip and was excited to see Wulf’s place. One of these days I’m hoping to get my wife Deana back to BYU to finish her MFA, hopefully with Wulf as a mentor (if we can get there before he retires!). We got to go to a barn dance he hosted about six years ago, so I recognize all those shots at his place, including his gorgeous library. Was he one of your professors?

  2. S. Richards permalink
    December 2, 2009 2:54 pm

    Wow, that is so neat. I live in Escalante. Glad you enjoyed it. :D

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