Trail Art by Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell is an artist, landscape designer and woodworker from Lancaster, WI. His art is focused on site specific installations with natural materials in the landscape. To learn more about the artist and his work visit: billmitchellartist.com or on Instagram: @billmitchellartist

'4,200 Stones' 

2021

metal, stone

It is estimated there are 4,200 religions and spiritual practices active in the world today. The artwork began when stones were gathered from the creek bed and will be complete when support wires deteriorate and they return to the water.


In many ways this is a time based piece and once installed is left to the forces of nature to determine its lifespan.


The stones were drilled with diamond tipped bits by hand and washed before being strung on the cable. The original conception called for smaller stones totaling 4,200, however the small stones were not suitable for drilling and were prone to breakage. The piece has 100 larger stones per loop, with 42 strands hanging down to represent the number. The strings of stone were attached to the trees to allow
movement, while limiting cutting into the bark. The site was chosen for the number of trees over the creek, the access to the creek side and the plant space between trail and installation.

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'4,200 Stones' approximate location

'Farm Report' 

2021

Concrete, metal, stone, wood

Standing on each side are columns, supporting structures of agriculture, that are markers of time, technology, culture, place and process. The memories, historical connections and cultural perspectives brought to the piece mix, evoking individual response of meaning, relationship and narrative.

 

The old barn beams were salvaged from local demolition and framed with traditional timber framing techniques, though using modern tools. A deep respect should be given to those who came before and build timber frame structures. The geared barn cleaner piece and the stones were also salvaged from an old dairy barn. Special thanks to Jeff Baker of Baker Iron Works for fabricating the metal assembly in the ‘loft’ on their CNC plasma cutter.

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'Farm Report' approximate location

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Photo credit: Bill Mitchell

'Funnel Vision' 

2020

Eastern red cedar, black locust

Each end of the funnel offers a different perspective, view and perception. See the wide view from the narrow end and the narrow view from the wide end. Acting as an aperture the scene is narrowed or broadened in relation to the perspective, view and perception. The funnel's ubiquitous form is used as a way to concentrate and transfer, in this case, visual information from both ends. In daily life, views are often controlled and perspectives managed.

 

Eastern red (Juniperus virginiana) cedar is an inspirational, yet often just tolerated tree. Employed in this piece for strength, availability, durability and familiarity. Partnered with black locust (Robinia psuedoacacia) native to eastern US yet considered invasive in this region, is strong and highly rot resistant for the connecting dowel pins.

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Photo credit: Bill Mitchell

'Funnel Vision' approximate location

'CRISPR'

2019 

Spruce, box elder, black locust

Contorted natural branching transforms into a double helix structure, referencing the gene editing technology CRISPR. The intersection of the natural and the manipulated deserves consideration for how humans interface with the environment and all the other species.

As we consider how technology enhances our lives, we should be asking where the balance lies as well. Careful thought should be given to our relationship with technology so as to not lose our humanity. It's become clear with Covid-19 that a small strand of RNA can deeply affect an entire species. What are the implications on other species of our altering the genetics of plants, animals and humans?

 

The work is temporary, made from natural materials and finish, it will return to the earth when the wood deteriorates and the piece collapses. Placed on a foundation stone at the location of a former bridge is a reminder of transition and impermanence.

 

The Norway spruce tree was removed for a construction project, the 38” diameter trunk had numerous twisted and contorted branches protruding, supporting the massive canopy. The branches have been in storage since 2008 until used to create this work, the trunk was sawed and dried, then used for furniture in the renovated home.

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Photo credit: Bill Mitchell

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'CRISPR' approximate location