Sarah Woodward: Art & Society

Below is an archive of Fall 2021 work from the Art & Society course by Sarah Woodward.

Final Project

This is a hand-bound book containing poetry and pinhole camera photography.The introduction reads: I walk until I find a place to sit and to think. A place to let my thoughts wander so far my eyes blur. That is, until something calls me back to my environment and makes me aware of the wonders of the natural world around me. I experience each of these reflection spaces with all of my senses. Cammino fino al trovare un posto per sedermi e pensare. Un posto per lasciare vagare i miei pensieri cosi lontano che i miei occhi sfocono. Cioe, fino a qualcosa mi chiama di ritornare al mio ambiente e mi fa vedere tutte le mereviglie della monda naturale. Sento tutto, non solo quello che vedo.

MidTerm Project: Porte Aperte

Guidebook Project

This is a handmade, accordion fold guidebook to Siena crafted in September 2021. The introduction reads: On my twentieth birthday I started a tradition, to run my age in miles in celebration of another year. I ran my 20 miles, 21 miles and now… This year I am immensely relieved to find myself in Siena, Italy for my 22nd birthday with its beautiful vistas, crisp air and most importantly it’s use of the metric system. This book divides my 22kilometer run into 1km segments, presenting an image and map of each checkpoint. I ask you to experience these segments as walks, to acquaint your body with the landscape of Siena and to reflect on the way this walk shapes or reshapes your thoughts and emotions.

Reading Response, Shape of a Walk (by Rebecca Solnit)

The idea of walking as art inspires me and is a concept I explored last year in a design brief in which I was asked to design a walk. The walk I designed was a “Fall Foliage Walk” in which I presented the reader with poetic phrases and feelings from pre-covid and asked them to match leaves to these feelings on their walk. These phrases included “an unmasked smile, the intrigue of strangers, a warm embrace, a firm handshake, the energy of an audience”. There are slots for the stems of the leaves to be inserted into each page and together they make a beautiful pallet of natural and evocative colors. This project was one of my favorites, as it allowed my audience and I to link our emotions with the environment in which we find ourselves through the practice of walking. I spend a lot of time walking and running, lost in the rhythm of the motion and able to reflect more clearly on my environment, work and social interactions.  Though I walk in practice I often do not consider my daily routine a piece of art itself, a concept this excerpt has made me want to pursue further. I especially enjoyed Long’s work and the way that it is an “encounter with the land in quest of alignments between geography, body, and time”(271). Walking is not simply an act but a way of creating relationships between oneself and their environment. I also enjoyed the way his work combines text and image in a sort of documentary and poetic manner, something I can see emerging out of my daily journal in which I describe my runs.  Abramovic and Ulay’s Great Wall Walk also inspires me, moves me and demonstrates and unbelievable commitment to art making. Their walk becomes so much more significant being over so many miles and across such an important and politically charged wall, yet I feel the power of this walk comes would be communicated even over other expanses of land. The act of traversing so great a distance and the idea of walking as a means of meeting and of leaving is so powerful and so innately human. One of my favorite lines about the couple in this text reads “like Long’s pieces, theirs seem a gift to viewers of the assurance that a primeval purity of bodily encounter with the earth is still possible and that the human presence so crowded and dominating elsewhere is still small when measured against the immensity of lonely places”(276). Though I do not find Siena to be a lonely place, I find solitude running on the Via Francigena, or walking along the countryside. I find peace and a connection to the land that I was wholly missing in New York. This shift in perspective, to view yourself as a minute detail on earth’s surface, to gape in awe at the beauty and immensity of the world, this is the feeling I chase as I run and walk.  The last line of this chapter reads, “walking reshapes the world by mapping it, treading paths into it, encountering it; the way each act reflects and reinvents the culture in which it takes place”(276). I now tread different soil, I encounter different plants, different vistas. I walk through a different culture, and as I do, my view of the world transforms, my footsteps becoming acquainted with another lovely and intriguing yet relatively minuscule corner of the world in which I have become fully enraptured. 

Reading Response: The Blue of Distance (by Rebecca Solnit)

Having been in Siena for more than two weeks now, the shroud of blue which once covered Italy for me is beginning to fade. This place, once very far from me has become tangible yet I still find many secrets hidden in Siena, places to explore and places to become lost in. Now my home country, America, is becoming enveloped in blue, a distant place I can not reach, painted in memories. A place I once was ready to leave now beacons to me, it has a new light, a blue glow I can not ignore. This feeling of longing is homesickness, a feeling that develops with distance. I thought the most beautiful quote in this text was a quote from Simone Weil which read “Let us love this distance, which is thoroughly woven with friendship, since those who do not love each other are not separated”. To cherish this feeling of longing, to embrace it as a positive sentiment will help us to fully experience time abroad. The idea of memory in this piece also fascinates me. The author describes the way memories change over time, “the far becomes near and they are not the same place”(35). Siena is a different place to me now than when I arrived wearing blue tinted lenses.  This excerpt also makes me think of my senior project titled “Project Yellow” in which I explore the emotions and connotations associated with the color yellow. The author explains how the color blue impacts our perceptions of distance saying “the color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not”(29). Though I have spent much time contemplating the meaning of the color yellow I had not delved into the color blue, never considering that its connotations of sadness and sorrow were linked to its physical representation of distance. We always desire that which we can not have, and I think that the idea of savoring this feeling is a difficult but worthwhile practice. 

Intro Unit: Tempo Zulu Project

I started this project by thinking about the connection Siena has with nature and the natural landscape, in contrast with New York City where I spent the summer. It seems as though the people who built Siena had a conversation with the land that we are still having today. The city continues to grow and change but the presence of nature remains, the stones are still those pulled from this land. We are constantly aware of the earth beneath out feet, the feeling that this city has truly become one with the surrounding greenery.  Tempo Zulu encompasses every corner of the earth, natural and unnatural.  In this project, a single stone of Siena Gialla will be seeded with rock cress seeds, a plant that flourishes in sun, withstands heat and drought and grows between rocks. This vibrant green plant has purple, white and pink flowers and will bring a pop of contrasting color to the terracottas of the stones we find so often in the city. The marble will have natural cracks in it with extra space around the outside for the rock cress to take root.  As to not be squashed by the many pedestrians, the stone will be part of a staircase, encouraging the rock cress to grow vertically and as a nod to the growth of the city. This staircase in particular is on Via Valdimontone, in the contrada which my host family identifies with. This staircase also leads you to a beautiful view of the valley, connecting the city to the greenery below.  I am fascinated by the intersection of natural and human growth, when they morph together to become one harmonious piece. 

Intro Unit: Walk of Destiny Project

Additional Fall 2021 work by Sarah Woodward can be seen in the following sections: