WOODLAND BANNERS POETRY WALK (Take a Walk on the Wild Side)

“My duty is to keep awake
The sense of wonder in the world.”  

 From the words of Marc Chagall

When you visit the General Store, be sure to take a turn on the patio, where you will see installations of three banners created by local artist Steven Durland and accompanying poetry by Linda Frye Burnham.

In 2015 Steven and Linda, an artist herself (words and performance), launched the Woodland Banners Poetry Walk on their 28-acre Frog Pond Farm in Saxapahaw. The Poetry Walk is a stroll through the woods with stations featuring large outdoor banners Steven created from digital images he made using leaves and other bits and pieces of the forest floor. Their property, which is shared with chickens, geese, dogs, and cats, they describe as “like Texas,” in that the property boundaries are jagged, and have a panhandle. These artists are always ready to make something new. They have spent their lives creating nonprofits supporting community arts and artists, and they relish creating their own art in their space now.

The farm is a great space for their art. Unlike a more formal gallery, which has its own unique advantages of display and presentation, the woods at Frog Pond Farm are nature-made and also influenced by man-made changes around them. As Steven drove me around the place in their golf cart, complete with vinyl seats printed with some of his images, he noted the difference in the landscape over the 20+ years since they have lived there. The farm is hilly, and he pointed out the direction where the thick trees had been clear-cut on a neighboring property. When the trees were cut, he said, the light changed a lot. It was also a lot windier. At this time of the afternoon, the sunlight was angling long and low, and it was easy to imagine the changes he described.

Linda was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and grew up in California. Steven is from South Dakota. They met in New York, lived and worked in L.A. for many years, and chose North Carolina’s Triangle to settle in — for the beauty, and the potential of culture/creativity with its convergence of universities and populations. They have seen and done a lot, and they have some great stories to tell. (Ask about the 5-Minute Performance Olympics, Bingo, or High Performance magazine’s fascinating history.)

As I listened to Linda and Steven describe the Woodland Banners Poetry project, I felt the peacefulness of the place as we sat on their deck overlooking the pond, where the brown chairs on the far pier were perfectly reflected in the water, along with the clusters and bits of leaves that have already begun to fall.

They feel that the banners and poetry are integrated into the property in a way that they like, and that enhances the life of both the art and nature. One reflects the other. As I left the property I looked out of my car window at the visible banners. With the lengthening light, and the beginning colors of Fall, I was captured, too, with their presence.

Many of the banners are named after artists whose work Steven thought serendipitously shared color and/or compositional elements with his leaf images. I bought the book they created to showcase the poetry and banners, and so I have also been introduced to a few new artists.

Linda noted the names and began researching the words of these artists. She found that they had great power and sounded like poetry, so she repurposed the artists’ actual words, creating a poem for each banner.

Here is a piece: “Leaves after Marc” (Franz Marc).

Art frees itself
From the desires and needs of men.
We will no longer paint a forest or a horse
As they may seem to us,
But as they really are. 

Expressions that seem spectral now
Will be thought natural tomorrow.

The poems were printed on aluminum trail markers and placed in the woods near their matching banners. The trail leads from the beginning of the driveway, through the forest to Steven’s Bourbon, Dogs & Art yurt studio at the top of the hill.

As he began making the images, Steven said that he recognized that there was something there beyond “I like this.” Nature reminds us of art, and artists’ work reflects nature. The gratification of how this project unfolded is clear when you listen to Linda and Steven talk about it. After many years of supporting art and artists communally and institutionally, giving each other these things offered a deep and new satisfaction. Visitors to the farm and the Woodland Poetry Walk will find satisfaction, peacefulness, and inspiration too, I imagine, as I did, and will. The dialogue of nature and art is constant, and, as Linda put it, still surprises. Those who stroll along the path of poetry and images often come back clutching leaves or other forest bits and excitedly show them to Steven. Did you see this? Many visit and return with parents or children.

These artists know that our sense of aesthetics is mostly based upon what we’ve been taught, and to experience this natural dialogue on their nearby farm is to stroll into a new yet familiar landscape and let it absorb us. The vitality of poetry endures, vinyl banners and aluminum plaques are durable, and we excitable humans may enter the space and leave, changed and perhaps “re-animated” with this sharing.

Frog Pond Farm also includes a large yurt Air BNB, which gets rave reviews. We’ve met many of their visitors who visit the Store, and they are full of the natural magic of the place: Nature, Art, chickens, geese, dogs, cats, a golf cart, a pond, woods, forest bits re-imaged and fluttering above the forest floor, and interesting, introspective artists with some great stories too.

The Poetry Walk is open by appointment throughout the year and on select announced open house weekends. Fall open house will be Oct 28-29, 1-5pm. You can learn more about the Poetry Walk and get on the mailing list for open house announcements at www.durland.comMementos and art are for sale in Steven’s Gallery, and online. I recommend your taking a book of the Poetry Walk home. It’s not just a book for the coffee table, but for morning beginning, anytime remembering, or bedtime savoring before sleep and an ongoing dream-time. We’re thrilled to have Steven and Linda’s creations now enhancing our space too.

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