“Wilderness Vs. Civilization” Missoula, MT

2500 sq ft, Acrylic on Concrete, 2010, Orange St. Tunnel, Missoula, MT, approximately 50 participants

Representing a place in a visual image along with your peers becomes an intense collaboration.  It is helpful to put aside preconceived notions of what you think as an individual and leave the playing field open.

For this particular project we began with a simple conversation about the site we were about to paint.  The Orange St. Underpass is a particularly strange place.  It is one of three major gateways in and out of Missoula.  Upon further investigation, we recognized a strange relationship that happens here at this site.  The relationship between the pedestrian and the motorist.  Here its a one way.  The pedestrian has no choice but to pay close attention to the motorist, but the motorist pays almost no attention to the pedestrian.  Whoever you may be, passing through this space is a strange experience.  There is just enough time as you travel through to feel like you have been transported to another place.

This idea led us to realize a unique aspect of living in Missoula.  This fairly bustling town exists with a very thin boundary to complete wilderness.  It’s like a lonely atom floating in space.  This underpass, accentuates this feeling as you are transported from one place to the other.

How could we represent this transition in an image?  We were given the entrance and the exit, depending on where you’re coming from, to paint.  The viewer will see one image leaving town and a different one coming into town.  This aspect would also lent itself to help our forming concept.

Wilderness vs. Civilization.  Is there a boundary, and what does it look like if there is?  The images began to snowball from this question.

After four weeks of gathering imagery we finally composed an image for both sides of the tunnel.  Read from right to left, the elements mirror the transition that happens when entering or leaving this place.  Entering, the viewer experiences moving from a natural setting to one that is man made.  Exiting, the viewer experiences leaving a technologically based environment into a reflection of the natural and an expansive view of the Missoula Valley.  To take it one step further in each image, we have used elements as representations of this concept.  Leaving town we have represented mountains using electrical conduit, and plant life as circuitry.  Entering town, we have represented looking over a  natural valley setting with man made objects such as railings, the Higgins St. bridge, and the tent in Caras Park.


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