Kathy Bill and Faculty Mentor: Daniel T. Barney, Art Education
I remember being obsessed with walking my last year of high school. I would wake up early
once a week and start to walk the same path the city bus would take with the hope of one day
being able to walk the whole way without having to take the bus. I would walk alone. No music.
Just me and my thoughts. The pace of life seemed to slow down as the sun would rise. I noticed
things I had never seen before. I was more aware of my body. I was more aware of nature and
what it had created for us. That obsession led me to walk across Prince Edward Island last
summer. A walk of 200 miles across the island. In an artistic point of view, I explored the limits
of the body against the willingness of the mind. How could you leave your mark in the landscape
as the land kept its mark on you? The only thing I could be thinking of was walking. All I had to
think of was walking. Nature was either with or against me. At the end of this summer, I will
now be walking across Iceland. This project is another form of inquiry to establish the
relationship between the landscape and the quest of a sublime aesthetic experience.
In preparing for my journey, many things I had not anticipated came their ways. I broke my arm,
got physically illed and could not do much. I was really limited in my ability to train for my
walk. These limitations however allowed me to research different artists and understand the way
they interacted with the landscape, the way they used walk as a form of political message or a
simple visual poetry. I was able to read more about others that also had walk across Iceland, but
for different purposes. Something that I had not expected happened from theses illnesses, I was
able to see physical limits with new lenses. Physical limitations are not always in our control.
Sometimes we think we can do something, but really we cannot. That was something fascinating
I had to experience from the front row. Once those physical limitations were gone, I was finally
able to prepare physically for my walk in Iceland by hiking Timpanogos overnight (fig. 1 and 2)
and by planning other intense hiking trips like King’s peak or crossing the Grand Canyon. At the
end of the month of August, my walk in Iceland will finally come true.
I chose Iceland for how it carries this aesthetic sublime through the vastness of its geological
power and the unique fault line between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This
fault represents a bridge between the American and European art worlds’ quests of the sublime
as an individual and society. In my research, I realized that many people felt drawn to walk
across the Island, but for different purposes. Some would want to be on top of the world with
nobody being able to know if they were there or not, other just wanted to have the experience of
crossing the Island. In all cases I read however, they all had in common to be engaged by a sense
of awe from the landscape. Something draw them there.
Current arts-based researchers advocate that walking opens the mind to a state of wonder as one
interacts with a particular landscape. As an art student, I am interested in walking as a form of
investigation in art. Fine arts has changed over the years. Land art was more frequently used until
finally people recently started to use their body to do what is called performance art. I am
interested in how the body is its own sort of inquiry of the world it is surrounded by. An artist
draws from his or her own capacity of understanding the world and makes it accessible to others.
My work concerns the limits of myself in relation to the limits of the land. As mentioned above,
my process in creating art expands on the ideologies of landscape art and Earth art, but also
contributes to disciplinary conversations about the body, endurance, commitment, meditative
spaces, new aesthetic engagements, and spatial relations.
By doing this project, I learned that often we begin with the intention of a destination in mind but
the journey itself takes over the end goal. What matters is what happens to the mind when it is
presented to hard physical challenges. Motivation can however do so much. The beauty of the
landscape transforms our intentions, our pace and our willingness to move forward. After all this
research, I now feel drawn to Iceland even more than ever before. Using digital lenses, I will
track my path through pictures and leave my mark on the landscape as it leaves its mark on me.