As another summer turns into fall, the staff and artists at Ucross are grateful as always for the vast natural beauty of Wyoming’s High Plains.
It’s true that for many people, this wasn’t exactly a dream summer. The ongoing pandemic was still wreaking havoc in the world. Western wildfires added danger and brought prolonged smoky haze to our area. Earlier in the summer, we had a highly unusual visit from a young black bear. The miller moth migration was epic, making our daily lives feel a bit like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. As my colleague Mike Latham commented drily, “This year, if a pterodactyl flew by, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Still, Ucross is glad to be open at full capacity again (10 artists, writers and composers) and the artists are thrilled to be here. Our residents frequently remind us of the importance of the natural world to their creative work.
Yesterday I visited the studio of Sunny Kim, a New Yorker originally from Korea, and she noted that the Wyoming landscape had crept into her paintings. Al Denyer, a Utah-based visual artist born in England, told us: “My time here was spent working with the doors wide open, listening to the babbling creek, the songs of birds and the blending breezes. The place, people and landscape here merge to create something special and truly magical.”
Nestled at the confluence of three creeks — Piney, Coal and Clear — Ucross is home to abundant wildlife that often intersects with artists. One writer, Shea Sweeney of Los Angeles, was inspired to draw some of our local animals, including an “art snake,” based on a rattlesnake seen near the studios. (Her snake said, “It’s all about process-s-s-s-s-s!”)
Another writer, P. Carl of Providence, Rhode Island, was visited regularly by a Great Horned Owl. Carl is also an amazing bird photographer and he estimated that he saw 37 different species while here. He wrote, “After a year and a half of pandemic related isolation and distraction, Ucross allowed me to return to that space of writing with focus and purpose and time.
I left with a solid start to my next book and new friends I was able to meet in person not on Zoom. I reveled in the joy of being in the live company of other artists.
It is an honor to work near the creative brilliance of such artists. Yesterday I looked out my office window and saw dancer/choreographer Stephanie Sleeper being filmed on the lawn by producer/director Liz Sargent. They have been creating in collaboration with Eiko Otake, an acclaimed performance artist, who was born and raised in Japan and has lived in New York for nearly 50 years. The group was here through our partnership with UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance.
Eiko will perform at dawn and dusk on Sept. 11 in New York, at Belvedere Plaza, just west of where the Twin Towers once stood. We salute Eiko, and her collaborators, and all of the courageous Ucross artists who have chosen to devote their lives to creative work.