‘Pathless Woods’ is an interactive, site-specific installation, consisting of over 24 miles of multi-colored satin ribbon. The visitor is invited to walk through 8,472 individual strands of ribbon that cascade from the ceiling to the floor of the Monda Gallery. Walking through the piece feels like swimming through a sea of color. The gallery itself is 2400 square feet and has 18’ ceilings. The ribbons fill the entirety of the space, with the exception of a 6’ area surrounding the four sides of the installation. ‘Pathless Woods’ also includes video projections, music, and scent.
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods/There is a rapture on the lonely shore" - Lord Byron “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”
Patterson has synesthesia, meaning that her sensory perceptions overlap; when she hears sound, she sees color. Trained as an architect and theater production designer, this unique combination of senses combines to create an artistic practice, hovering somewhere between the theatrical and the experiential. She continues to explore creating synesthetic environments with ‘Pathless Woods’, something that began with her acclaimed 2013 installation ‘Graced with Light’ at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
The visitor of ‘Pathless Woods’ leaves the reality of the museum and enters into another; a constructed synesthetic experience where the senses are encouraged to overlap. The visitor is invited to walk through and interact with the forest of ribbon and multi-media projections. Mimicking life, the path through the ribbon is at times very clear, and at other times not. One is encouraged to find their own path, and in doing so, evoke a sense of joy. As the poem states, there is a "pleasure in the pathless woods”, a certain joy in walking the path that others do not.
One of Patterson’s inspirations for “Pathless Woods” was composer Michael Gandolfi’s “Garden of Cosmic Speculation”. In listening to the music, she ‘saw’ long, linear lines of blue and green surrounding a red center – an image she created with satin ribbons.
Wanting to enhance the senses of sight, sound, and touch as one walked through ‘Pathless Woods’, Patterson collaborated with projection designer Adam Larsen and scent artist Beau Rhee. Video of swaying branches, falling rain, and rushing water are projected upon the dense mass of hanging ribbons.
Patterson also wanted to include a scent that would evoke the feeling of being in a forest. Rhee created a light fragrance of pine and fir to remind one of being in the woods after a rainfall.
Patterson’s associate Kina Park was integral in devising a way to involve over 75 museum volunteers to build the work. Volunteers cut and organized the ribbon, then attached the ribbon to the 120 ropes. The ropes were then hung diagonally across the ceiling of the gallery with the ribbons cascading 18’ down to the floor.
As visitors of “Pathless Woods” walk through the interactive installation, all their senses are affected. There is the sense of touch of the ribbon on one’s skin, the sight of flickering light and projected imagery, the sound of classical music, and the clean scent of a forest.
Art matters. Attention to the details of our environment leads to love of place, which brings us to take responsibility for the spaces where we live and work. And by extension, the people with whom we live and work. And by extension, to our local communities, our cities, our nations, and our world.
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