When Fort Sheridan was developed as a residential community, a grant enabled the creation of the Openlands Nature Preserve. This project is a restoration and preservation of one of the last remaining ravine and bluff ecosystems in the metropolitan region. There are beautiful walkways, complemented by original, site-specific works of art.
Interpretive signs illuminate the environment and the art with poetry by Lisa Roberts, who curated the art selections. The works are by Kate Friedman (Reading The Landscape), Vivian Visser (a driftwood installation called Erode), Ginny Sykes (a mixed-media mural on an underpass called Arc of Nature), Sharon Bladholm (cast bronze/resign plaques on a stone wall called Soil: Alive With Life) and Olivia Petrides (painted obelisks called Leaf and Earthbark Prisms).
The ravine walk is wonderful, a gentle incline down to a beautiful beach. The art is a perfect complement to the environment. It serves an educational function while enhancing our experience of the beauty and complexity of nature, and our place in it.
Petrides’ striped prisms reminded me of the work of artist Kerry Hirth. She is a synasthetic artist, which means that she interprets sound as color. She created a work called Birds Lost from a Giant Sequoia Forest During Fifty Years (pastel on canvas, 12″ X 48″). She explains that “This painting begins at the deep roots of a sequoia forest and moves up the trees toward the treetops and then further up the mountainside to a pine forest and ultimately to the sky. Between the roots and the sky, there are seven distinct sections. Each section represents a species of bird that once lived in the forest but no longer does as a result of habitat destruction. The sections are defined by the way they reflect the distinct plumage of each bird.”
Sometimes art as “earthworks” is a destruction or disruption of the natural environment in which it is placed. Not in this case. I look forward to returning to the Openlands Preserve and spending more time with the art, particularly the poetry that accompanies each visual art piece on a trail marker.