After three years of muddling over this topic I created “Progress in the Mountains“, a seven foot by 27 inch hand hooked runner.
Envision the impact on geography, environment, culture and community the human drive for progress has had on the natural resources of West Virginia (a micro example of the globe).
1. Major interstate highways create jobs for the construction industry, allow quicker access to towns and destinations for tourism and commerce but disturb migration paths, feeding and lodging habitat for fauna and flora.
2. Corporate farming in the form of one breed of cattle, poultry buildings for thousands, and processing plants for each creates excess of waste which needs to be distributed by vehicles to wider destinations or processed into a stable by-product.
3. Lumbering of the forests, many of which were contract planted for the pulp or board feet affects the terrain. The undergrowth is necessary to keep erosion from happening, contributing to pollutants in the rivers. Slow traffic from lumber trucks is alleviated with the new highway system.
4. Coal mining strips the tops of mountains to find the veins, moving the waste often into headwaters of small streams which will run into the major river systems. But the coal is used to create electricity for the metropolitan population’s requirements to communicate, work, entertain. The power lines to distribute the energy create wide cuts in direct paths economical for the corporations taking years of negotiating with landowners, environmentalists, historians and politicians but eventually “for the good of the majority” being implemented.
5. Wind turbines line the highest ridge lines feeding the energy generated into those power lines again going out of our state to the metropolitan region. Although a regenerable resource (wind) the effect on birds’ migratory paths is being studied.
I find it interesting to use a traditional hands-on process of pulling one loop at a time, manipulating the fabric into shapes and directions (rug hooking) to depict these issues of the 21st Century. For months this design was drawn horizontally spreading the seven feet with layers of hills, roads and power lines intersecting the organic shapes. It did not seem to be the right format. Finally in my daily journal on June 27 I tried a vertical format and could see more layers allowing a longer trail to be able to tell more stories. The piece evolved easily from there.
Working this runner was like reading a great book, each chapter and character held my interest. They built on previous sections with shapes, colors and values evolving along the path, progressing to the top and end. Imagine walking along, following the flow of road and hills then turning around and coming back down the mountain in your hallway.
Following are subjects taken along the Robert C. Byrd Highway system in Hardy County, WV and the rug in stages of completion.