A COLORADO ARTIST BUILDS A SCULPTURE OF GLASS THAT’S DEEPLY CONNECTED TO NATURE.
PHOTO BY STUDIO DENARO PHOTOGRAPHY
The oldest piece of foraged glass that Whitley has discovered dates back 133 years. PHOTO BY STUDIO DENARO PHOTOGRAPHY
“FOREST SPIRAL,” a new land-art sculpture set in the woods near Basalt, is constructed of wire and thousands of pieces of century-old glass. Longtime Roaring Fork Valley artist Lara Whitley (larawhitley.studio), in collaboration with Beyul Retreat (beyulretreat.com), built the artwork as an open-air glass meditation temple. The creative team found a naturally occurring spiral of lodgepole on the 32-acre Beyul property to string up the found glass. Its location, situated on a public trail easement where the 10th Mountain Trail transects Beyul land, ensures that the sculpture will remain free and open to the public. “‘Forest Spiral’ is made not only for the community but by it,” Whitley says, “brought to life with the help of more than 150 partners, backers and volunteers.”
We asked Whitley to give us the story behind the spiral.
What was your vision for this project? My dream is to use art to create a shelter from the turbulent times we are living in: a contemplative space in nature for peace, wonder and renewal. I think of the ‘Forest Spiral’ as a listening room in the woods, a place to attune to one’s innermost thoughts—and to the forest.
Tell us more about your process. I forage for old trash in abandoned dumping grounds from Aspen’s mining era. It’s all pretty much on the surface, where it’s been eroding since it was thrown off someone’s wagon a century ago. My finds are the hard bits that have endured: metal, pottery and bottles. It’s like sea glass but tumbled by gravity and dirt instead of waves and water. Fun fact: Some of my bottles are stamped, including a few that say ‘1889 Aspen.’
The space is meant to be meditative. Was there a Zen to building it? I drop into a meditative state when out foraging or doing the repetitive tasks of sorting, stringing or wiring. The world kind of drops away and a different perspective comes into focus. And to drill glass, you must stay present, or it will shatter. Glass is a tough teacher!
Let’s break down the sculpture by the numbers. I drilled 4,000 pieces to get to the 3,000 pieces that survived, each of which I’ve touched at least eight times (foraging, hauling, cleaning, sorting, drilling, stringing, transporting, wiring). I estimate at least 40,000 touches went into this piece