COLLABORATIVE CONCEPTS Saunders Farm 2013 -- catalogue essay on Roy Staab and his environmental site installation SKYBOW

Skybow, 2013 was created by Roy Staab over a period of ten days beginning

on August 20th. Based in Wisconsin, Staab has traveled the globe for 30

years to make his elegant works in natural settings, which are first and

foremost created in response to the specific sites. He had the difficult task

of choosing his location just weeks ahead for Saunders Farm without the

usual time he needs to survey the landscape. He chose the pond, as he

prefers to work in the water for its movement and reflective surface as a

backdrop. The pond at Saunders is also a favored spot for a herd of Black

Angus cows that roam freely, the edge was trampled and the vegetation

was far from pristine. The water had an unpleasant odor, was brownish-

green and not at all transparent but Staab was determined to use this

location; he thrives on a challenge and wanted to traverse the entire span

of the pond with a suspended work.

Staab decided to make a 300 ft. long arc to cross the horizontal length

of the pond creating a perfect line drawing in space. The position of this

catenary line was determined by tall trees at either end. Suspended

between the trees, the line moves gracefully as wind blows in the treetops,

while the surroundings stay stationary.

Staab’s works always make use of accessible organic materials found on

site. In this area it was wild weeds - mugwort, goldenrod and reeds, which

he tied together with jute using an armature of sessile bailing twine. He

then painstakingly lays out the material to create the line, working quickly

with precision and taking good weather and sunlight to his advantage.

Being inventive, Staab borrowed a bow and arrow and shot the twine

across the pond in order to suspend it between the trees. This attempt

failed. He then tried the more difficult task of throwing a string with a

weighted rock, which took many tries but succeeded. On the opposite side

of the pond he climbed a 40 ft. tall tree to attach the line but the weight

of the length was the next engineering problem to tackle. The suspended weeds dry

out and shrink and the knots he makes in the jute made it tighter

but the line stretched out which caused it to sag. Eventually he achieved his

desired length and height of the line to create a visual tension centered in

the middle of the pond - away from the appetite of the cows.

A few days after the work was completed the curved line was hovering at

its lowest point, nearly touching the water after the rain. It swayed and

danced in the wind just above the surface. This is the effect Staab most

desires when Nature contributes to the beauty of his art. His works are

in and of their environment, as opposed to being about site or space.

They are not placed into a new context from which they are made, but

created in the setting, inseparable from it and only subtly distinctive. When

accomplished Staab studied Skybow from all angles and the changing light

during different times of the day. He then set up his camera and tried to

capture all of this in a perfect shot.

Staab intends for his ephemeral artworks to decompose slowly as in all of

nature. The continual changes of weather, wind and the toll of time will

eventually cause their demise. The fresh green materials begin to wilt and

turn dry and brown; showing the process of life and death and the cycle of

all living things.

Amy Lipton

Curator ecoartspace

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