Dunrovin had no idea what to expect when it arranged for its first ever artist in residence during the winter of 2016. Our intentions were simple. We wanted to break up the winter with some frivolity, to distract ourselves with something surprising and, hopefully. a little eccentric. We wanted to engage our www.DaysAtDunrovin.com cyber community members in the creative process, to watch it unfold, to connect with the artist as his or her vision took shape. And we wanted the artist to help us see our world through different eyes, and start a new conversation.
Luckily we picked the perfect artist to introduce us to working and living with art. Tyler Nansen seamlessly melded into our world. He was a quiet, unpretentious presence, wondering the property to let his artistic spirit “find Dunrovin.” He happily shared his thoughts and curiosity with us and our cyber friends as he began to “know” the place, feel its rhythms, and absorb its sense of self. While our local newspaper captured the specifics of the project, I am only now beginning to understand the prolonged impact the art will have on me and other Dunrovin residents and visitors.
I find myself circling each of Tyler’s pieces as part of my daily routine. They draw me in. They ask me to notice the light, the vegetation, the sky. They seem to demand that I take note of the differences, the details, the changes in them and their surroundings.
They invite me to play, to bring my friends and animals down to contemplate them. They have drawn visitors who called and came just so they could see for themselves, to share their own impressions, their own reactions and experiences, to leave of little of themselves behind.
Jewel’s and Kola’s initial suspicions to these strange things in their well known stomping grounds turned first to acceptance with casual inspections for any new features or creatures who might be about. Their feelings are now turning to near boredom mixed with exasperation at my interrupting their games each time we pass so that I can appreciate them anew.
What I did not anticipate was my complex and nuanced emotional reaction to these foreign objects in my space. Dunrovin is my home, my grounding, my safe harbor. It is part of me, and in many ways, it is a reflection of who I am and what I value. Unlike Tyler’s efforts to “find Dunrovin”, I had found it long ago. I have reshaped it and it has reshaped me. I and my family have never before been asked to live with someone else’s notion of “our” Dunrovin. Our possessiveness is natural and unavoidable.
While beautiful in many ways, Tyler’s pieces prompt all manor of thoughts, reactions, and reflections. This is what art is supposed to do. Some of my thoughts are joyful and appreciative. Some are disturbing and perplexing. Does Tyler’s vision conflict with my own? Does it invite criticism? Does it inspire? Does it please me? Does it unsettle me? The answer is yes, it does. It does all of these things – and more. It pulls me out of myself, which is both freeing and fraught. It tilts my mirror, blurs my vision, and leaves me with a new point of view on my world and my place in it.
These tantalizing and unexpected objects will no doubt catch the attention of our summer visitors and generate many conversations about their juxtaposition with nature. It will be great fun to hear our guests question and enjoy their presence. Our visitors’ impressions and exclamations will become part of the story of Tyler’s art.
But these art pieces will hold no greater power over anyone than me. The eyes of this beholder sees them in an entirely personal way, in my personal place, occupying my personal moments as my days of living around them and with them accumulate. These ephemeral, light and insubstantial objects are helping me comprehend the meaning of place. What are they doing in my place? I did not, and could not have, created these objects. I played no role in their becoming – but they now play a role in mine.
I am eager for the impact of the coming seasons on Tyler’s art – the potential flooding of the river, the eruption of spring vegetation, the horses milling about and inspecting them, birds selecting a corner for nest construction. I am equally eager for my mental and emotional meanderings that will surely accompany them as they are buffeted by the weather and nature to pass from standing proudly new, to slumping into disorderliness, to disappearing all together. Their impact on me will long outlast their physical presence.