NY Times Arts section of Saturday April 8, 2017 features an article on reknown artist Doug Wheeler and his installation “PSAD Synthetic Desert III” at the Guggenheim Museum. Wheeler's installation is purposed to provide a near-soundless room. This seems especially apropos in light of today’s noisy media and political climate.
This article made me recall three meaningful times when I experienced Silence.
The most recent experience was in 2015 at my Brush Creek Arts Residency in Wyoming when I trekked an exhausting hike with musician Catherine Marie Charlton to Robbers Roost peak. Once at the top we both went our separate ways and worked on our respective projects in solitude. She was composing a piano piece and I was working on quick watercolor topographic references. We had a compelling 360 degree view of the majestic Wyoming landscape located near Medicine Bow National Forest. Breathtaking! Once the view was absorbed, the next sensation was absolute silence except for the wind. It was such a rarity and so calming. It simply brought out the best of human sensations.
Around 2003 my wife, Tricia, and I took a ferry to Sapelo Island, Georgia. The island is one of the last remaining bastions of Gullah culture. Thankfully the residents have managed to keep their community alive. The island is quite remote and with ancient burial mounds and remains of old structures. Our clackety, old Gullah tour bus dropped us off in an isolated grassy field surrounded by trees and water situated against a perfect crystal blue sky. First thing I noticed was absolute quiet. At first, it was so disconcerting because of the novelty. Then it became like music and so mentally welcoming.
The third and last memory was around 1980 at the top of Kit Carson National Forest near Taos, New Mexico. I had driven an abandoned logging road in my 1946 International Cornbinder dump truck and was lost. The truck (named Ira) was used successfully to haul firewood. Again, the top of the mountain was a spectacular view of meadows, streams, and large looming mountains. Absolute solitude and quiet. This time and place has been as close as I have come to a religious experience.
All this makes me realize how necessary quiet is on the human psyche. I only wish there were more opportunities. I so appreciate it when it happens. Doug Wheeler is to be commended.