Establishing my “basic vocabulary” & processes

carving "Flowing Water Moon" Hydroglyph

With the successful experiments of the “Raptor Roosts”, “Hydroglyphs”, “Marten  Havens” and “Floating Islands” I felt I had established a basic approach and a vocabulary to continue my work with wildlife. My process was to learn about a species’ needs, which components were lacking or scarce in a specific habitat, which needs could be addressed structurally, and design around them.

My process included doing research to learn enough about a species or eco-zone, to give me the background and vocabulary to approach scientists and wildlife professionals. With them I could then generate and validate ideas. I also learned about getting permission from land owners, private and government, to create temporary or more permanent sculptures on their land. I had discovered areas not far from my home where I could carry out experiments. I don’t communicate well by drawing, but I think in three dimensions so making models expressed my ideas, and having models on site was a good way to show project participants our construction goal.

Knowing about species interdependence, I decided it would be interesting to create multiple sculptures for multiple species needs on a site. That would involve more money and more people. I received feedback on my work, some negative but surprisingly more positive, even from humans.

I learned to write grants to get arts funding.  I found I could attract environmental organizations as partners when my work added arts funding to help achieve their environmental goals. This required learning an organization’s goals and showing them ways my work paralleled and extended their goals. With the partnerships, arts funders were more inclined to fund an “interdisciplinary” project. By “leaving” the art world to make art for animals I had done something of interest to the art world.

From the beginning, my art seemed “accessible” to animals, adult humans and their children. Early on, I was encouraged to apply for “artist in the schools” residencies in several states. While it was a way to get more projects and experiments “realized”, I had two reasons to avoid work with school children:  I know the art world discounted artists who worked with children as not being serious artists, and I felt it was in some ways dishonest to help children fall in love with a nature and environment as we adults seem determined to destroy it. Our current disregard of the consequences of climate change still drives me crazy. However, artwise, I began to get some funded opportunities to carry on the work I was now devoted to. I did do several school projects, but only if the school had a site for creating habitat.

students at Navajo Mountain creating a branch pile sculpture



Salina, Kansas "prairie dog experience"

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