“We all have a relationship with the mountains…some appreciate them just for natural beauty, while others it’s intertwined into their livelihood.”
These are the words of Jason Sheridan Brown, kinetic sculpture and installation artist from Knoxville, Tennessee. After living in Tennessee for 12 years, this University of Tennessee associate professor of art was inspired by the culture of the coalfields to create Lost Mountain, one of two INTERSTRUCT projects in the third and final installment of the three-part series.
INTERSTRUCT launched on Oct. 3 with a site-specific installation at the historic Pope Villa by international artist collective Expanded Draught, with the second installment opening Nov. 7 in the North Limestone neighborhood with projects by Rebecca Hamlin Green and Cedar Nordbye and Juan Rojo.
“I’ve always been engaged with land as a subject,” says Brown.
Situated within the historic weatherworn Pepper Distillery, Lost Mountain is constructed from a collection of steel frameworks, wood panels, mirrors, and roughly 40 buckets of raw Kentucky coal.
To give the piece authenticity, Brown used Google Earth to map the contours of the mountain ranges from Perry County to Lexington. Using this line as a template, Brown cut the image of a mountain range out of mirrors and wood panels. These mountain mirrors make it so that the viewers see their own faces in the mountains, sparking a physical and mental reflection upon one's personal relationship with and responsibility to the land.
“I want the work to engage a variety of audiences by existing somewhere in the middle ground,” Brown hints that his work may be better received from an eco-activist’s standpoint, but mainly aims to provide viewers with a medium through which to project their personal history with coal.
Brown was inspired to narrow the focus of his work to Perry County after reading Erik Reece’s Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness. This collection of journals chronicles the environmental demolition of one Appalachian mountain through mountaintop removal mining from October 2003 through November 2004.
Brown’s Lost Mountain speaks a similar dialogue about the battle between cultural identity and environmental harm, a dispute many Kentuckians feel a deep kinship to.
“This issue is super complicated. People are highly passionate about it because so many are dependent upon coal for their jobs,” Brown says.
Kentucky is a prime illustration of a disconnect that often occurs between urban and rural culture. Brown has a goal of one day displaying these coal-inspired works away from the bigger cities, in hopes to start different conversations.
“In a perfect situation, I’d do this in an abandoned power-plant to make it an even stronger connection to the real thing, but here [Pepper Distillery] you definitely get a sense of the past. It certainly has a post-industrial feel,” Brown says.
To further integrate the impact of coal on the installation, the room will be flooded with bright contractors lights. This will illuminate the piece from within, and leave it glowing from the night outside, literally and symbolically confronting the viewer at all times.
Come out to experience the Lost Mountain during the Gallery Hop from 5pm to 8pm this Friday, November 21st.