In 2008 I spent two weeks in Denali National Park at mile 41 as part of the National Park Service Artist in Residence Program.
When I applied to the residency program, I planned to make tree rubbings. But when I arrived to the treeless tundra, I needed a new idea. So each day I created a tiny book to represent the day’s experience. This built on my regular visual diary process, but in a slightly different way. These little books are also part of a National Parks Online Exhibit. You can see my work here.
I also picked a word to represent each day, which I stenciled onto a card.
During these two weeks I grabbled with the idea of wilderness. I thought I understood what it meant to be in the wild. I had read Thoreau. I had no idea what true wilderness was. Denali is the size of my home state Massachusetts, but with only one 60 mile road going into it. The rest is completely unpopulated by humans. Encounters with grizzlies are common.
Once I returned from Alaska, I transformed the images from the books and the text into collages, which I used as pressure prints for a book. The images are bound into an accordion flagbook, allowing the viewer to glimpse portions of each page. Just like Denali, you can never see all of it at once. Denali is a majestic and unpredictable place, revealing its lessons in its own time.