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Timothy Frerichs Maps a Proposed Wind Farm in Arkwright

"New Grange 2", part of Timothy Frerichs's series mapping a proposed wind farm in Chautauqua County.

New Grange

Timothy Frerichs’ semi-abstract art gets down to artistic nitty-gritty. It’s about mapmaking, which is to say, more basically, representation, re-presentation, the presentation of reality in an alternate format. All artworks are maps. Of something, whether tangible or intangible. Maybe of a mountain, maybe of a pot of flowers, maybe of a face. Maybe of simply an idea in the artist’s head. The most specific representations—specific in a technical sense—we call maps. But they are all maps. But beyond what we might call the technical aspect, representations have what we might call an emotive aspect. Some representations more than others. But they all have it to some extent. Even the specifically designated maps.

Frerichs’ art is about representation in its fullest sense and scope. About how representation is mapmaking essentially, but also about the emotive aspect.

An exhibit of his recent work, called New Grange, is currently on view at the Villa Maria College Art Gallery. The paintings and painting collages are maps of the proposed New Grange wind farm in Chautauqua County. A large expanse of open fields that up until now must have been cultivated farmland and pastureland, fringed by woods.

They are not maps according to strict technical definition. Not maps project engineers would likely use in the construction of the project. But they are based on engineering maps and drawings. They include frequent collage elements of technical maps and drawings, and painted and drawn standard map imagery. But also include irrelevant details, from an engineering perspective. Such as collage elements of various flora—grasses and grains and flowers—from the site. And sketch drawings of flora. And in several of the pieces, sketch drawings of a skein of what looks like electrical wire, tied around the middle with loops of the same wire. That in one instance could as easily be a bundle of cut grain stalks, prior to threshing, tied around the middle with a few loops of twine, the way they used to do it. Recalling the former agricultural use of the site, going back years.

Adding an historical dimension, historical consideration. As the instructor in the Henry Reed poem says, “maps are of time, not place.” “Judging Distances” is the title of the poem. What seem to be geographical distances turn out to be historical distances.

Making for a much more complex map, much more complex representation of the reality. And adding an elegiac note. Consideration of what we lose by the project as well as what we get from it. What we get is a power production facility for clean energy from a renewable source. What we lose are the open fields, the unobstructed horizon, the rural peace and quiet.

Other collage elements include single and multiple overlays of translucent paper, marked and unmarked. Suggesting again the complexity of the project and site, technically and historically. Other collage elements are photos of the site, the open fields and woods, with arrows pointing to where the wind turbines will be located.

Nor is just the historical consideration simple and uncomplicated. That is to say, nor does it constitute a simple recollection of an agrarian period as a time of relative innocence. Most of the collage flora represent cultivated species, such as grain or seed crops, or typical domestic animal fodder, and so cultivated, too, though less deliberately. Except for the ferns, which are frequent collage items. Species that go back to the dinosaur age, and so predate the agrarian, predate even the virgin forests that the newcomer agrarians destroyed to create the open fields.

How do we get off this vehicle that seems to be out of control, careening headlong?

The Frerichs exhibit continues through October 28.

—jack foran

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