Sulpting the Land
January 19 - March 2, 2008 / Curated by Lucy Van Sands Seeburg
This fascinating exhibition is an overview of 10 years of Dan McCormick’s projects that create restoration sculptures that are ephemeral, but the land and the participations experience long-term effects. McCormick calls this work “true West Marin public art”:it is visually elegant, made from indigenous natural materials, the projects require the cooperation of diverse groups, the art is installed to heal the land in the local watershed and it ultimately disappears into the landscape.
“I have two trajectories for my work. The first is providing meaningful public art experiences in unlikely sites. My focus is the creation of restorative art using the watershed as a venue.” “This art engages the public in a dialogue that both frames and restores a watershed impacted by agriculture, and serves to inform the public of the natural systems at work in the lands surrounding their community.” “This public art experience also has a scientific biological trajectory. I use materials from the watershed, primarily branches and cuttings from riparian plants, and weave them into sculptures that conform to the contours of eroded stream banks and gullies. These sculptures trap and divert silt and nitrogen produced by agricultural run-off. They reduce delivery of agricultural wastes and intercept erosion that otherwise would lower oxygen levels
in Salmon spawning grounds.”
McCormick trained in science, architecture, urban planning and art at U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Santa Barbara. Today he works on urban design projects such as creek restoration in major cities. He is also well known as a gifted painter. This sculptural work was inspired by a teacher who pointed out that sculpture does not have sequence of events.
McCormick turns his diverse skills into educational tools as he creates these projects with students from the Point Reyes middle school. In the summer he also works with high school students from the Marin Conservation Corps on larger projects. As participants in the restoration projects, the 7th graders learn and use concepts of geometry, hydrology, geology, diagramming, surveying, and biology, how to use tools and the art of design and construction. They study riparian habitats, historic spawning grounds and the watershed. Their fieldwork at the on-site construction gives them a personal connection to their local ecosystem.
Afterwards they express the experience through writing, poetry and drawing. Gallery Route One, of Point Reyes Station, was instrumental in bringing McCormick to the school. The National Park Service, ranchers, Marin Wildlife and Fishery Advisory Committee, Bay Area organizations who support the project with grants, writers, artists, parents and McCormick’s wife Mary O’Brien who produces the events, all work together to bring these projects to fruition. This work has gained public attention and many articles on McCormick’s projects have appeared in national periodicals
The art is ephemeral, but the human experience and
the effects on the landscape ripple into the future.
detail of McCormick's diagram of creek and recommended area for protection