Riverbank studio to extend artist’s odyssey

One of the anchors of a debut artist-in residency program is on display at the Brandywine River Museum of Art as artist Dylan Gauthier embarks on the second phase of his yearlong odyssey.

The Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art’s first artist-in-residence is continuing to hone his craft on multiple levels.

Dylan Gauthier, the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art's artist-in-residence gives volunteers a quick primer on boat-building.

Dylan Gauthier, the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art's artist-in-residence, gives volunteers a quick primer on boat-building.

In June, Dylan Gauthier began his yearlong odyssey – entitled “Highwatermarks: Six Ways of Sensing the River” – with a boat-building exercise at the museum. Assisted by a group of more than a dozen volunteers, he constructed a punt, a flat-bottomed riverboat that he will use for a series of excursions on the Brandywine and nearby waterways.

The vivid-hued vessel, called “Hydrologic Unity: 02040205,” is on display in the second-floor atrium of the Brandywine River Museum of Art. The name comes from the unit system that geologists use to categorize bodies of water. The code situates the boat in 02, the Mid-Atlantic region; 0204, the Delaware sub-region; 020402, the lower Delaware accounting unit; and finally, 02040205, within the Brandywine and Christina watersheds.

Gauthier is now embarking on the second part of his residency, which will include observationhouse, a wooden field studio inspired by the tetrahedral cabin Alexander Graham Bell built and used in Nova Scotia for his first experiments with flight and environmental sensing. The structure along the riverbank will serve as Gauthier’s workspace as well as a center for conversation. He and a team of fabricators will be constructing it from Monday, Oct. 10, through Saturday, Oct. 15.

The artist said the work that the Brandywine Conservancy is doing regionally to help ensure cleaner drinking water and raise awareness of the fragility of area waterways inspires him.

“My artwork engages with ecology and the relationships between waterways and their surrounding communities,” Gauthier said in a conservancy press release. “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, transportation and recreation.”

Volunteers put together the boat that is now on display at the Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Volunteers put together the boat that is now on display at the Brandywine River Museum of Art.

Starting on Monday, Oct.17, through Sunday, 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, the release said.

Each afternoon at 2 p.m. during these two weeks, Gauthier will conduct interviews inside observationhouse with Brandywine Conservancy staff and local conservationists about ecology-related 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 to and observe these conversations, the release said.

Throughout November and December, Gauthier will work at the museum periodically, welcoming visitors into observationhouse. When he is not on site, observationhouse will be open daily, and the public is invited to observe the landscape and experience Gauthier’s sound recordings, interviews, and river data from October. The temporary studio will remain on the riverbank until Jan. 5, the release said.

“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,” Thomas Padon, the museum’s director, said in the release.

Gauthier is a graduate of Hunter College of the City University of New York, where he studied film and media and now teaches art and media studies. He is also a co-founder of Mare Liberum (“The Free Seas”). Created in 2007, Mare Liberum is described as a freeform publishing, boatbuilding and waterfront art collective and civic initiative, based in Brooklyn, New York.

Rooted in centuries-old stories of urban water squatters and haphazard watercraft builders, Mare Liberum forges collaborations to explore what it takes to make viable aquatic craft as an alternative to life on land. It is also a way to spotlight the overlooked and often toxic waterways of urban centers – a mission in synch with the conservancy’s emphasis on ensuring the health of the Brandywine.

In June, the proves to be water-worthy.

In June, the newly-constructed boat proves to be water-worthy after being eased into the Brandywine.

On his website, Gauthier characterizes himself this way: “I am an artist, curator, and writer who works through long-form projects to engage with ideas of ecology, architecture, collectivity, time, media and networks, utopian systems, and the artist’s role in society.”

The Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art works to protect water, preserve land, and engage the community in environmental and artistic pursuits. The conservancy’s work with private landowners who wish to see their lands protected forever and to provide community planning services to municipalities and other governmental agencies has led to 469 conservation and agricultural easements, facilitating the permanent preservation of more than 62,000 acres of land.

The Brandywine River Museum of Art features an outstanding collection of American art housed in a 19th-century mill building with a dramatic steel and glass addition overlooking the banks of the Brandywine. The museum is open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors ages 65 and over, $6 for students and children ages 6 to 12; free for children 5 and younger and members. The museum is located on Route 1 in Chadds Ford.

To learn more about the conservancy or the museum, visit www.brandywine.org or call 610-388-2700.

 

 

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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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