The Middle of Somewhere: An Artist Explores the Nature of Virginia

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The Middle of Somewhere: An Artist Explores the Nature of Virginia Author: Format: Paperback / softback First Published: Published By: Trinity University Press,U.S.
string(3) "256"
Pages: 256 Illustrations and other contents: color Language: English ISBN: 9781595349613 Categories: , ,

There’s no such thing as the middle of nowhere. Everywhere is the middle of somewhere for some living being. That was Suzanne Stryk’s mantra as she journeyed through her home state on a mission inspired by the reflective, encyclopedic sensibility of Thomas Jefferson’s book Notes on the State of Virginia. While acknowledging the moral contradictions in the founding father’s work and life, Stryk offers a contemporary interpretation of Virginia’s ecology from a visual artist’s point of view. She kayaks pristine swamps in river country, wanders the galleries of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, hikes rocky trails across the Appalachians, and strolls the dusty streets of old coal towns. She encounters frogs, millipedes, ravens, dragonflies, sparrows, turtles, and many other species that claim a particular place as home. Weaving in historical anecdotes and personal memories, Stryk relates her encounters with these beings in their “somewheres.” The creatures in their habitats and the people she meets are characters in the book, a tapestry of essays, lush sketches, and ephemera. Stryk’s multimedia collages, composed of dead bugs, tourist pamphlets, road maps, pressed leaves, rusty farm equipment, animal bones, and handwritten directions, all artistically arranged over USGS topographic maps, bring the narrative to life. Stryk’s personal accounts and conversational tone make readers feel as if they are traveling across Virginia with a friend, one who is at times funny and at other times deeply reflective. She invites us to travel slowly, tread lightly, and look closely at each somewhere that defines a place.

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"An elegant and often luscious tour of Virginia's natural environment that is by turns travelogue; memoir; portable exhibition; reflections on culture and history; and observations of fish, fowl, fossils and artifacts." -Richmond Magazine reflections on culture and history; and observations of fish, fowl, fossils and artifacts. "I have long loved Suzanne Stryk's work. This book is an invitation to know that work more deeply, to learn of its origins, its roots, and to look over her shoulder as she sketches in notebooks full of salamanders and cocoons, horseshoe crabs and turtles. What a joy to lose yourself in a world of the human and nonhuman merged, of leaves and maps, trees and text." - David Gessner, author of Quiet Desperation, Savage Delight and All the Wild That Remains "The title of Stryk's new book is beautifully descriptive. She is always placing herself in the middle of an experience as she traverses the state of Virginia. In each chapter, she explores a specific subject deeply, gracefully connecting her personal meditations to natural history. As a visual artist, she examines salamanders, horseshoe crabs and other subjects through acute observation; as a writer, she pulls us into a world of endless wonder." - Mary Stewart, artist and author of Launching the Imagination: A Comprehensive Guide to Basic Design. "Suzanne Stryk overlays topo maps of Virginia places she visited with her sketches and notes, along with the stories of her experiences-all of them vividly and finely drawn. The result is a kind of deep map, a rich place in the imagination as much as a geographic point. Under a mossy rock in the highlands, she uncovers a salamander, an activity that speaks to her art: a colorful creature, the joy it brings, and the love it requires unrequited. The Middle of Somewhere brings us into the patience and ardor of Stryk's artistic process and calls us to chart our own journeys of wonder and discovery." - Rick Van Noy, Sudden Spring: Stories of Adaptation in Climate-Changed South and A Natural Sense of Wonder "Suzanne's art is transcendently beautiful. I love the juxtapositions of painting, found items, print, and who knows what else that she constructs. Her writing here seems to be mostly about her process, her way of seeing-a bit like her art, filled with surprising twists and turns." - Julie Zickefoose, Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest and Letters from Eden: A Year at Home, in the Woods "Stryk's art asks how we connect to place. Do we act as a tourist, passing through for a snapshot and then moving on? Or do we engage deeply like a traveler, moving beyond seeing to witnessing a natural world that may be disappearing. In this way, these works are not just "notes," but contemporary reliquaries housing fragments to be honored and protected." - Leah Stoddard, Independent Curator

Author Biography

Suzanne Stryk is an artist who finds equal fascination in the natural world and the visual arts. Her conceptual nature paintings and assemblages have appeared in solo exhibitions throughout the United States, and her portfolios and related writings have been featured in Terrain.org, Orion, Ecotone, and the Kenyon Review. She is the recipient of a George Sugarman Foundation grant and a Virginia Commission for the Arts fellowship for the project "Notes on the State of Virginia," the precursor to The Middle of Somewhere. She lives in southwest Virginia.