Brandywine Conservancy Unveils Community-Based Art Project

Dylan Gauthier, the museum’s first artist-in-residence, is “creating a stimulating dialogue between art and nature.”

A new sculptural installation on display in Brandywine River Museum of Art’s second-floor atrium is getting as much attention as the spectacular view. “Hydrologic Unity: 02040205” is a brightly painted, two-person boat built in June by Dylan Gauthier, the museum’s first artist-in-residence, with help from local volunteers. Gauthier is using the community-built boat to explore the fabled Brandywine, depicted in art by painters, and the source of drinking water for close to half-a-million are residents. Look for him and the boat on the river or in the museum or in his next project “observationhouse,” on view starting Oct. 17.

“observationhouse” is a temporary and moveable structure Gauthier has designed, built and placed on the riverbank near the museum, which the community is invited to explore. These are the first two artworks created by Gauthier during his year-long collaboration with the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. “highwatermarks-six ways of sensing the river” is a participatory, community-based artistic project focused on the Brandywine and the place of water in the public’s shared imagination. Gauthier is creating a stimulating dialogue between art and nature, between Brandywine Conservancy’s acclaimed group of scientists and planners, and between museum curators and educators. The numbers in the title “Hydrologic Unity: 02040205” refer to the location of the Brandywine River using a system created by the United States Geological Survey. The Brandywine is within the Mid-Atlantic water-resources region (02), the Delaware sub-region (04), the Lower Delaware accounting unit (02), and the watersheds of the Brandywine and Christina rivers (05). It also makes a play on the words “unit” and “unity,” echoed in Gauthier’s accompanying neon piece, which speaks to the Brandywine as a connector of the diverse populations of the surrounding region. As the punt is used, the original colors will wear away to reveal other colors beneath them.

The second part of “highwatermarks,” titled “observationhouse,” is an outdoor installation and mobile field studio that will serve as Gauthier’s workspace and as place for him to interact with the community during his residency. “observationhouse” will function as a studio for art-work and experimentation. It is equipped with environmental sensing technologies, a weather station, water quality-monitoring instruments and live data from the nearby USGS shed. Starting Oct. 17 through Oct. 30, Gauthier will lead the public on silent, listening walks each morning at 10 a.m. to various conservancy land sites culminating with a discussion in “observationhouse.” Each day at 2 p.m. during these two weeks, Gauthier will conduct interviews inside “observationhouse” with Conservancy staff and local conservationists about topics such as the role of observation, engagement, experiential learning, and direct encounters with the landscape in their work. The public is invited to listen and observe.

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Throughout November and December, Gauthier will work on-site periodically, welcoming visitors into “observationhouse,” which will remain on the riverbank of the museum campus until Jan. 5. Dylan Gauthier is an artist, curator, and writer whose work explores ecology, architecture, collectivity, time, media and networks and utopian systems, as well as questions an artist’s role in society. He teaches art and media studies at Hunter College of the City University of New York.

“My artwork engages with ecology and the relationships between waterways and their surrounding communities,” says Gauthier. “Regional waterways were once the lifeblood of cities and towns across the country. Rivers powered industry, acted as a connective fabric between distinct communities and were a source of food, drinking water, recreation, and transportation. I am inspired by the work that the Brandywine Conservancy is doing in local watersheds to help ensure cleaner drinking water and raise awareness of the fragility of area waterways.”

“Dylan is a fascinating artist whose work includes sculptural, conceptual, video and performative elements. I am thrilled that his residency will focus on the extraordinary activities of our colleagues at the Conservancy, in particular their efforts to protect the Brandywine watershed,” said Thomas Padon, Museum director.

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