The Farm/Art DTour route held helpful orange signs to warn drivers to slow down, art was near.
So, I was driving home from work, minding my own business, when, WHAM, there it was. On a rise east of the county highway, two wild boars were crashing through a perfectly good fence.
As I slowed down to watch the two porcine devils frozen in mid jump, exploding fence shards suspended in mid-air like a comic strip, I felt weirdly violated. What in the heck was art doing out here in my own private Idaho? Next thing would be hundreds of gawking art tourists hogging my lovely (secluded) winding roadways.
Okay, it wasn’t Idaho, it was Wisconsin west of the Dells, but it was art—high art, in fact. This hay sculpture was spectacular. I had to learn more.
Turns out, this is one of many art installations of the Farm/Art DTour, a 50-mile art-studded route through the rolling farmlands of my rural neighborhood. And guess what? Organic Valley is a sponsor. (How could we not!?) Curated as the central attraction of an annual festival of all things fermented, created four years ago by a Reedsburg, Wisconsin-based non-profit called Wormfarm Institute. Fermentation Fest: A Live Culture Convergence is a ten-day odyssey out of what is, into what might be if we, “build a sustainable future for agriculture and the arts by fostering links between people and the land.”
I love that. Art and agriculture come together in the interest of a better future for everyone. Since one stretch of the Farm/Art DTour route ran between my house and barn, and since my wife, Colette, and I (and friends) had already sliced and pressed our orchard of apples into pie and cider, I simply had to jump in the car and take a spin to see for myself. Look out, art-gawkers!
Take a look at what I found.
Artist Brian Sobaski, of St. Paul, Minnesota, created this sensational sculpture of wild boars in flight, destroying a fence in their bulky haste. Sobaski chose this subject after his study of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources maps revealed that the site is at the edge of current encroachment of this invasive species. They are coming in all too real incarnation, he warns us.
A distant view.
And a creepy close-up.
The installation process provides a look at the intricate understructure of Sobaski’s work.
Three hay wagons and a whole lot of bound corn husks graced a field south of Reedsburg. “Wealth,” was the perfect descriptor for the rich vista behind that my eye couldn’t ignore. This piece was an example of the many “rogue installations and additional attractions along the route” that the official DTour guide asked tourists to watch for.
Along the way, several “Field Notes” provided cultural education–not to mention good excuses to stop and drink in the views.
Dairy Field Note.
And, of course, Corn.
Washington artist, Peter Krsko, rests and ponders his nearly complete Sylvan Chapel, built entirely of wood–some living, some reclaimed from the construction industry. The meditative space was sprinkled with sundrops throughout the day, as the sun touched it through the forest’s branches, leaves and needles.
A native Wisconsin artist, Mary Dickey’s sensational work, A Call to Beauty, “invites you step away from the everyday and seat yourself on the throne in the shrine.” Indeed. The hundreds of mirror shards created a simultaneous sense of natural peace and manufactured danger.
Stepping away, the peace of nature, adorned with white deer and songbirds, reverberated all the way to the valley below.
“Invasive Species,” by Brooklyn’s Isabelle Garbani, explored the perils of plant invasion. The “weeds” growing up the side of this abandoned farmhouse were crocheted by Garbani out of colored plastic shopping bags. Plastic, she tells us, is as invasive in our everyday rural and urban lives.
A closer view.
In the backwaters of Lake Redstone, Chicago artists Sarah Black, Amber Ginsburg and Lia Rousset floated this wonderful shape based on the Midwest’s unglaciated Driftless Region. For four days of the DTour, the three towed the sculpture to shore and welcomed Dtourists on board, where they received refreshing drinks cooled by ice Black had retrieved from Alaska—from the receded but still-intact glacier that once parted to spare (and create) Wisconsin’s hilly Driftless Region.
This remarkable Farm/Art DTour will return again next year, better than ever. If you’re not doing anything in October, I recommend a day’s excursion. If the art doesn’t grab you, stop in where the road runs between house & barn and you might just find yourself enjoying a steaming slice of apple pie.