Frozen Period

The exhibition Frozen Period was on view at the Lynden Sculpture Garden (Milwaukee, WI) during the summer of 2015. This project came out of a year long residency at the Lynden Sculpture Garden. I have never before had such an amazing combination of time to work, support for the work, and intellectual and aesthetic community around the work.

I arrived at the Lynden Sculpture Garden determined to traverse its forty acres with some of the off-kilter spirit of the great Meriwether Lewis. I sought the night to work, as the site then was least peopled and least mediated. I had time to work, think, and walk.

 

A catalogue is available from Lynden and is distributed by Green Gallery Press. The catalogue includes essays by Nicholas Frank, Polly Morris, and Dan Torop, and reprints Meriwether Lewis's journal entry from June 14, 1805.

Green Gallery (Milwaukee, WI) presented the exhibition Sublunary World which includes further work from this project.

In a series of extended residencies beginning in the summer of 2013, Dan Torop made photographs at the Lynden Sculpture Garden that integrate an historical text--Meriwether Lewis’s June 14, 1805 diary entry describing a day and night in the environs of the Great Falls of the Missouri River--with present day visual investigations. Mindful of ecologist Aldo Leopold's description of a nearby landscape, Torop responded to the passage of seasons, animals, and objects across the site, sometimes intervening, always observing. The exhibition of twelve photographs, culled from a year's work, is accompanied by a publication, Dan Torop: Frozen Period, that includes a larger group of Torop’s images, Meriwether Lewis’s journal entry, and an essay by Nicholas Frank that continues the dialogue with Lynden's landscape and history. The catalogue will be available for purchase. The exhibition opening and publication coincide with the 210th anniversary of Meriwether Lewis’s narrative.

Frozen Period refers to both a season and an historical epoch. Torop created many photographs during the winter of 2014, when the frigid grounds became an unfamiliar and difficult terrain. The harsh weather, the darkness, and the strict geographic limits of the project became important constraints in which it flourished. But all of the work Torop created was informed by a sense of the "frozen period," the time between the death of the sculpture garden's owner and creator, Peg Bradley, in 1978, and its opening to the public in 2010. During his months at Lynden, Torop sought out the interstitial, private times--early mornings, late evenings, nights--as ideal times to make work.

Frozen Period is both a subjective description based upon a year’s photographic work, and an examination of the very act of exploration and observation. Exemplars for this project include Chris Marker’s diary/documentary Sans Soleil and the poetic Americanist writings of William Carlos Williams, Paul Metcalf, and Charles Olson. Through rendering and modifying Lynden's spaces, Torop examines the tension between exploration and domestication, expansion and settlement, the “sublimely grand” and the “pleasingly beautifull” (Lewis, June 14, 1805).

 

Following the opening of Frozen Period, Lynden staged Westward which included a group reading of Meriwether Lewis's June 14th, 1805 journal entry while we dined on vegan pemmican by Lynden's Waterfall Hill (and observed a twilight rehearsal of "Fairy Queen Fantasy"). The Lewis text, also included in the catalogue, follows.

 

[Lewis] Friday June 14th 1805.

       This morning at sunrise I dispatched Joseph Fields with a letter to Capt. Clark and ordered him to keep sufficiently near the river to observe it's situation in order that he might be enabled to give Capt. Clark an idea of the point at which it would be best to halt to make our portage. I set one man about preparing a saffold and collecting wood to dry the meat    Sent the others to bring in the ballance of the buffaloe meat, or at least the part which the wolves had left us, for those fellows are ever at hand and ready to partake with us the moment we kill a buffaloe; and there is no means of puting the meat out of their reach in those plains; the two men shortly after returned with the meat and informed me that the wolves had devoured the greater part of the meat.    about ten OClock this morning while the men were engaged with the meat I took my Gun and espontoon and thought I would walk a few miles and see where the rappids termineated above, and return to dinner.    accordingly I set out and proceeded up the river about S. W.    after passing one continued rappid and three small cascades of abut for or five feet each at the distance of about five miles I arrived at a fall of about 19 feet; the river is here about 400 yds. wide.    this pitch which I called the crooked falls occupys about three fourths of the width of the river, commencing on the South side, extends obliquly upwards about 150 yds. then forming an accute angle extends downwards nearly to the commencement of four small Islands lying near the N. shore; among these Islands and between them and the lower extremity of the perpendicular pitch being a distance of 100 yards or upwards, the water glides down the side of a sloping rock with a volocity almost equal to that of it's perpendicular decent.    just above this rappid the river makes a suddon bend to the right or Northwardly. I should have returned from hence but hearing a tremendious roaring above me I continued my rout across the point of a hill a few hundred yards further and was again presented by one of the most beatifull objects in nature, a cascade of about fifty feet perpendicular streching at rightangles across the river from side to side to the distance of at least a quarter of a mile.    here the river pitches over a shelving rock, with an edge as regular and as streight as if formed by art, without a nich or brake in it; the water decends in one even and uninterupted sheet to the bottom wher dashing against the rocky bottom rises into foaming billows of great hight and rappidly glides away, hising flashing and sparkling as it departs the sprey rises from one extremity to the other to 50 f. I now thought that if a skillfull painter had been asked to make a beautifull cascade that he would most probably have pesented the precise immage of this one; nor could I for some time determine on which of those two great cataracts to bestoe the palm, on this or that which I had discovered yesterday; at length I determined between these two great rivals for glory that this was pleasingly beautifull, while the other was sublimely grand. I had scarcely infixed my eyes from this pleasing object before I discovered another fall above at the distance of half a mile   thus invited I did not once think of returning but hurried thither to amuse myself with this newly discovered object. I found this to be a cascade of about 14 feet possessing a perpendicular pitch of about 6 feet.    this was tolerably regular streching across the river from bank to bank where it was about a quarter of a mile wide; in any other neighbourhood but this, such a cascade would probably be extoled for it's beaty and magnifficence, but here I passed it by with but little attention, determining as I had proceded so far to continue my rout to the head of the rappids if it should even detain me all night.    at every rappid cateract and cascade I discovered that the bluffs grew lower or that the bed of the river rose nearer to a level with the plains.    still pursuing the river with it's course about S. W. passing a continued sene of rappids and small cascades, at the distance of 2½ miles I arrived at another cataract of 26 feet.    this is not immediately perpendicular, a rock about 1/3 of it's decent seems to protrude to a small distance and receives the water in it's passage downwards and gives a curve to the water tho' it falls mostly with a regular and smoth sheet.    the river is near six hundred yards wide at this place, a beatifull level plain on the S. side only a few feet above the level of the pitch; on the N. side where I am the country is More broken and immediately behind me near the river a high hill.    below this fall at a little distance a beatifull little Island well timbered is situated about the middle of the river.    in this Island on a Cottonwood tree an Eagle has placed her nest; a more inaccessable spot I beleive she could not have found; for neither man nor beast dare pass those gulphs which seperate her little domain from the shores.    the water is also broken in such manner as it decends over this pitch that the mist or sprey rises to a considerable hight.    this fall is certainly much the greatest I ever behald except those two which I have mentioned below.    it is incomparably a geater cataract and a more noble interesting object than the celibrated falls of Potomac or &c.    just above this is another cascade of about 5 feet, above which the water as far as I could see began to abate of it's valosity, and I therefore determined to ascend the hill behind me which promised a fine prospect of the adjacent country, nor was I disappointed on my arrival at it's summit.    from hence I overlooked a most beatifull and extensive plain reaching from the river to the base of the Snowclad mountains to the S. and S. West; I also observed the missoury streching it's meandering course to the South through this plain to a great distance filled to it's even and grassey brim; another large river flowed in on it's Western side about four miles above me and extended itself though a level and fertile valley of 3 miles in width a great distance to the N. W. rendered more conspicuous by the timber which garnished it's borders. in these plains and more particularly in the valley just below me immence herds of buffaloe are feeding.    the missouri just above this hill makes a bend to the South where it lies a smoth even and unruffled sheet of water of nearly a mile in width bearing on it's watry bosome vast flocks of geese which feed at pleasure in the delightfull pasture on either border.    the young geese are now completely feathered except the wings which both in the young and old are yet deficient.    after feasting my eyes on this ravishing prospect and resting myself a few minutes I determined to procede as far as the river which I saw discharge itself on the West side of the Missouri convinced that it was medicine river and which they informed us fell into the Missouri just above the falls    I decended the hills and directed my course to the bend of the Missouri near which there was a herd of at least a thousand buffaloe; here I thought it would be well to kill a buffaloe and leave him untill my return from the river and if I then found that I had not time to get back to camp this evening to remain all night here there being a few sticks of drift wood lying along shore which would answer for my fire, and a few sattering cottonwood trees a few hundred yards below which would afford me at least a semblance of a shelter.    under this impression I scelected a fat buffaloe and shot him very well, through the lungs; while I was gazeing attentively on the poor anamal discharging blood in streams from his mouth and nostrils, expecting him to fall every instant, and having entirely forgotton to reload my rifle, a large white, or reather brown bear, had perceived and crept on me within 20 steps before I discovered him; in the first moment I drew up my gun to shoot, but at the same instant recolected that she was not loaded and that he was too near for me to hope to perform this opperation before he reached me, as he was then briskly advancing on me; it was an open level plain, not a bush within miles nor a tree within less than three hundred yards of me; the river bank was sloping and not more than three feet above the level of the water; in short there was no place by means of which I could conceal myself from this monster untill I could charge my rifle; in this situation I thought of retreating in a brisk walk as fast as he was advancing untill I could reach a tree about 300 yards below me, but I had no sooner terned myself about but he pitched at me, open mouthed and full speed, I ran about 80 yards and found he gained on me fast, I then run into the water    the idea struk me to get into the water to such debth that I could stand and he would be obliged to swim, and that I could in that situation defend myself with my espontoon; accordingly I ran haistily into the water about waist deep, and faced about and presented the point of my espontoon, at this instant he arrived at the edge of the water within about 20 feet of me; the moment I put myself in this attitude of defence he sudonly wheeled about as if frightened, declined the combat on such unequal grounds, and retreated with quite as great precipitation as he had just before pursued me.    as soon as I saw him run of[f] in that manner I returned to the shore and charged my gun, which I had still retained in my hand throughout this curious adventure. I saw him run through the level open plain about three miles, till he disappeared in the woods on medecine river; during the whole of this distance he ran at full speed, sometimes appearing to look behind him as if he expected pursuit. I now began to reflect on this novil occurrence and indeavoured to account for this sudden retreat of the bear. I at first thought that perhaps he had not smelt me before he arrived at the waters edge so near me, but I then reflected that he had pursued me for about 80 or 90 yards before I took the water and on examination saw the grownd toarn with his tallons immediately on the impression of my steps; and the cause of his allarm still remains with me misterious and unaccountable.—    so it was and I feelt myself not a little gratifyed that he had declined the combat. My gun reloaded I felt confidence once more in my strength; and determined not to be thwarted in my design of visiting medicine river, but determined never again to suffer my peice to be longer empty than the time she necessarily required to charge her. I passed through the plain nearly in the direction which the bear had run to medecine river, found it a handsome stream, about 200 yds. wide with a gentle current, apparently deep, it's waters clear, and banks which were formed principally of darkbrown and blue clay were about the hight of those of the Missouri or from 3 to 5 feet; yet they had not the appearance of ever being overflown, a circumstance, which I did not expect so immediately in the neighbourhood of the mountains, from whence I should have supposed, that sudden and immence torrants would issue at certain seasons of the year; but the reverse is absolutely the case. I am therefore compelled to beleive that the snowey mountains yeald their warters slowly, being partially effected every day by the influence of the sun only, and never suddonly melted down by haisty showers of rain.—

      having examined Medecine river I now determined to return, having by my estimate about 12 miles to walk. I looked at my watch and found it was half after six P. M.—    in returning through the level bottom of Medecine river and about 200 yards distant from the Missouri, my direction led me directly to an anamal that I at first supposed was a wolf; but on nearer approach or about sixty paces distant I discovered that it was not, it's colour was a brownish yellow; it was standing near it's burrow, and when I approached it thus nearly, it couched itself down like a cat looking immediately at me as if it designed to spring on me. I took aim at it and fired, it instantly disappeared in it's burrow; I loaded my gun and exmined the place which was dusty and saw the track from which I am still further convinced that it was of the tiger kind.    whether I struck it or not I could not determine, but I am almost confident that I did; my gun is true and I had a steady rest by means of my espontoon, which I have found very serviceable to me in this way in the open plains. It now seemed to me that all the beasts of the neighbourhood had made a league to distroy me, or that some fortune was disposed to amuse herself at my expence, for I had not proceded more than three hundred yards from the burrow of this tyger cat, before three bull buffaloe, which wer feeding with a large herd about half a mile from me on my left, ⟨singled⟩ seperated from the herd and ran full speed towards me, I thought at least to give them some amusement and altered my direction to meet them; when they arrived within a hundred yards they mad a halt, took a good view of me and retreated with precipitation. I then continued my rout homewards passed the buffaloe which I had killed, but did not think it prudent to remain all night at this place which really from the succession of curious adventures wore the impression on my mind of inchantment; at sometimes for a moment I thought it might be a dream, but the prickley pears which pierced my feet very severely once in a while, particularly after it grew dark, convinced me that I was really awake, and that it was necessary to make the best of my way to   camp.    it was sometime after dark before I returned to the party; I found them extremely uneasy for my safety; they had formed a thousand conjectures, all of which equally forboding my death, which they had so far settled among them, that they had already agreed on the rout which each should take in the morning to surch for me. I felt myself much fortiegued, but eat a hearty supper and took a good night's rest.—    the weather being warm I had left my leather over shirt and had woarn only a yellow flannin one.

 

Meriwether Lewis’s June 14, 1805 journal entry is reproduced from the JOURNALS OF THE LEWIS & CLARK EXPEDITION, VOLUME 4, APRIL 7 - JULY 27, 1805 edited by Gary E. Moulton. Copyright 1987 by the University of Nebraska Press.