This fall a group of 3D design students, led by Professor Lisa Nappa, cruised out to Turnbull, EWU’s neighboring National Wildlife Refuge. The students’ goal: to make art with just their imagination and the raw materials found in Mother Nature.
Before venturing out of the studio they watched excerpts from “Rivers and Tides,” the documentary about Andy Goldsworthy, who is a guru of ephemeral sculptures made strictly from elements of nature. They also had a brief practice session across the street at Sutton Park, where they quickly learned that sketching ideas ahead of time wouldn’t help.
“You have to play with the materials long enough to know what you can and can’t do with them,” said Monica Hoblin, a senior majoring in Visual Communications.
Arriving at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, Hoblin paired up with Aziz Al Abdul Karem, a studio art major from Saudi Arabia, to arch long sticks over a small boulder, forming a cage-like canopy. The result is that your eye focuses not just on the cage but on the rock underneath, an object you wouldn’t notice otherwise.
Other students sewed leaves together with thorns, or filled the cracks of a fallen log with moss, implementing basic design principles such as line-form and contrast.
One student wreathed a boulder with bunchgrass, creating what looked like an eye peering out of the dry grass.
“It was fun to get outside,” said Linnea Nystrom, a junior Occupational Therapy major from Olympia. She said the exercise made her pay closer attention to the colors of the particular season. “The fall colors contrasted with the grey mud and the white birch bark.” Though not an art major, she took Nappa’s 3D Design class as an elective, or as she put it, “for fun!”
Working directly with nature to sculpt works of art, the students knew nothing they made would last more than a day or two.
“You have to let it go,” says Hoblin. “It can’t be precious.”
She wove together fiery leaves, sticks and trumpet blossoms into a collage that adorned a birch tree trunk.
And yep: U.S. Park Rangers granted permission for this student project. It’s just one of the great parts of the strong relationship between EWU and the wildlife refuge.