23 June 2008

Highlighted Environmental Artist: Daniel McCormick

The Watershed: An Ecological Installation, Sleepy Hollow Creek, San Anselmo, California, 2002 (photo: Mary O'Brien) (source)

Daniel McCormick creates Healing Sculptures using natural materials to help control erosion and restore ecosystems and watersheds. Using art to heal and restore damaged environments is an amazingly beautiful concept. Rather than being an object of reflection or worship, the artwork points towards the grandest ‘art installation’ of all – the Earth, and acts as a catalyst for bringing life back to the Creation. This is truly selfless art, the life of the artwork breaking down and returning to the earth, in order to bring new life to an ecosystem. While I have not seen any of these installations in person, these images portray the exact balance of beauty, sensitivity and materiality that so many of our abused ecosystems need.

Site plan of art installation in agricultural area with a salmon spawning creek (source)

“My approach to creating ecological art relies on the interplay of restoration science and the creative process… It consists of large-scale sculptural forms that lend assistance in the restoration of watershed ecosystems. These sculptures function effectively as silt traps and erosion control devices. They are designed and sized to fit the curves of stream banks and gullies…The ultimate goal is to transform these sculptures into a sustainable component of the watershed, in order to reestablish vegetation and prevent further erosion.” (Daniel McCormick)

“I have received a lot of inquiries about how people can view my finished work. This is often tricky, since my intention is that the art eventually disappear into the land leaving thriving vegetation to stabilize the creek banks.” (Daniel McCormick)

Watershed sculpture in Corte Madera Creek watershed at low water, Fairfax, California, summer 2004. (source)

Watershed sculpture in Corte Madera Creek watershed one year later, during the winter floods, 2005. (source)

“I want my sculptures to have a part in influencing the ecological balance of compromised environments. I am compelled by the idea of using sculpture in a way that will allow the damaged areas of the watershed to reestablish itself. As it has evolved, my art has become focused on strategically congregating sculptural components made from riparian materials back into the watershed system. They are intended to give advantage to the natural system, and after a period of time, as the restoration process is established, the artist's presence shall no longer be felt.” (Daniel McCormick)

Silt Trap Basket (source)

“The sculptures are constructed of material taken directly from the watershed—trimmings from trees and brush. Once constructed and placed in damaged gullies and stream banks, the sculptures act as silt traps that collect the eroded soil and debris from pasturelands. The traps are filled with more riparian material—cuttings from nearby willows—which help to filter the silt and allow cleaner flows downstream. (If left to flow into the stream during the winter rains, this silt would suffocate the eggs of spawning salmon and steelhead.) The sculptures eventually breakdown leaving the newly established willow to stabilize the stream bank, and begin the stream restoration process. The ability of the native willow to re-root and establish itself with just the slightest bit of encouragement, sets the stage for the next phase of my work. I intend for the sculpture to disappear completely leaving a succession of native erosion-controlling growth to take hold. The intent is to make adjustments in the watershed so as to return a degree of equilibrium to the stream system.” (Daniel McCormick)

Flood Plane Wall - A curving wall woven of native Willow, California Sycamore, Alder and Cottonwood. Living Willow and Cottonwood saplings were woven into the wall, and will reinforce the recovery action. (source)

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