Of Land & Local Artist in Residence Michael Zebrowski's Farm Installations

Up past the Farm Barn, past the educational garden brimming with fennel fronds and flowers, and up a winding path through the shaded forest, is one of the most spectacular vantage points of Shelburne Farms – Lone Tree Hill. Summer campers, morning runners, and Farm staff have all perched atop this breezy hill, but now it’s home to something else entirely: Michael Zebrowski has built one-third of his ¾-mile long art installation there, what he calls the “Observatory”.

A glimpse of Zebrowski’s structure atop Lone Tree Hill

Zebrowski’s work is part of the Of Land and Local series,  a partnership between Burlington City Arts and Shelburne Farms. The exhibition is designed to catalyze conversations about the environment with the help of site-specific artworks and the artists who create them. The 2016 theme is water — How does it shape our community? How do we affect it in all its forms?

As the Of Land and Local artist in residence at Shelburne Farms, Michael Zebrowski is asking all these questions of both the viewers of his work and himself. The layout for his installation involves three sculptures: the climbable observatory on the highest elevation on the property, a sculpture on the Coach Barn lawn, and a floating, buoy-like piece anchored in Lake Champlain. All three are set along one axis such that you can see the other two pieces from any one of them. However, your gaze is always pulled to Lake Champlain.

The view from the Observatory

“It’s a really primal process and work; it’s three objects on the landscape aligned. But, ultimately, the show is about making a connection back to the water,” Zebrowski explains. His observatory creates an atypical perspective: a view of the land and the lake that is more vertical than horizontal that allows for people to look at the vista from a slightly new perspective and possibly notice different elements within the landscape. Small details usually swallowed up by space come to the forefront: the gradient in the sky from top to bottom, or the way the mountains in New York slowly disappear into the horizon. “There’s something about being restricted that allows you to see more,” Zebrowski explains. “No matter the time of day, there is something that you will see differently because of that [restricted view].

Tools of the trade & Zebrowski at work

“[This work is about the] idea of looking out — looking bigger — and connecting to the bigger idea of water. This is an incredibly unique view in the universe. We haven’t found any other planets with water.” Zebrowski’s work allows you to focus on the Lake as if you are a telescope, peering onto Planet Earth and observing a precious resource from afar. The installation doesn’t take our daily interactions with water into consideration, but focuses on the bigger, universal idea of the importance of water to sustain life.

And while grand contemplation of the meaning of life and where it may and may not exist is an intention of the piece, Zebrowski feels it is equally successful when “someone can be prompted to look at [the view] a little longer and see it in a new way. It isn’t about passing on information, but just the act of trying to see something.”

Zebrowski on the platform of the Observatory

Come see Michael Zebrowski’s work for yourself at the Farm from September 29 to October 23. Join us at the Coach Barn for Of Land and Local’s opening reception on September 29; Zebrowski will also be displaying his sculpture “Harvest” in the Coach Barn courtyard and a projection piece showing his personal documentation of his time as the artist in residence at Shelburne Farms. Zebrowski will also be holding an  artist talk on October 8. Registration is required, so please sign up in advance.


Posted by Sarah Webb

September 14, 2016

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