In response to 9/11 and the 2003 Iraq War, I moved with my family to Maine, determined to find ways to live sustainably and independent of foreign oil. In Maine, my husband and I built an in-ground, off-the-grid home and then co-founded a sustainability institute with Andrea and Russell Read called Newforest (2006 – 2012).
Newforest provided opportunities for research and education in sustainability to a broad range of the community, including school children, energy auditors and permaculture gardeners. [Permaculture uses the study of ecology to seek ways that humans can have access to food, energy and shelter in a sustainable way.] We did so guided by the belief that “to restore to the human community its ability to see itself as nature, embedded within the larger landscape, is a fundamental and indispensable act of environmental restoration.” Seeing ourselves as nature “allows us to act more often in concert with nature, creating in both the built environment and natural worlds systems that would allow the human community to meet its needs in ways that promote sustainable ecological health” (Read et al.).
Building our house and my work at Newforest had a profound effect on my sculpture. I started to think in terms of landscape as art and I started to consider the body as part of the land; the piece of land we always inhabit. I began to combine the figure with natural materials and symbols and patterns from nature. From this new understanding, I created a series of work called Portrait of the Ecological Self. This work was supported in part by a Puffin Foundation Grant.
Read, A., Callas, G., Maseychik, T., Callas, K., Kekacs, A., Read, R., Lilieholm, R. J.. “Newforest Institute: Restoring Habitat for Resilience and Vision in the Forested Landscape.” Ecosystems and Sustainable Development VII., WIT Press, 2009, pp. 427–428.