Client: The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Keith D. and Linda L. Monda Gallery of Contemporary Art
Location: Sarasota, FL, United States
Completion date: 2016
The Ringling Museum
Karen Holdaway Grøn
Katrine Stenum Mortensen
Building Bridges Art Exchange
Pathless Woods is an interactive, site-specific installation, consisting of over 24 miles of multi-colored satin ribbon, projections, music, and scent. The visitor is invited to walk through a ‘forest’ of ribbons which cascade from the ceiling to the floor of the gallery. The ribbons fill the entirety of the site-specific space, creating a permeable environment for the visitor to explore. At the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, over 300,000 visitors experienced the meditative and joyful experience of wandering through 8,472 strands of ribbon in a gallery of 2400 square feet with 18’ ceilings. 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.
"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’, a process 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. 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.
Over 300,000 visitors experienced the meditative and joyful experience of 'Pathless Woods' at The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. 'Pathless Woods' was reinstalled at the Trapholt Museum in Denmark as a part of the 2019 ‘Sense Me’ group exhibition, including works from artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, Jeppe Hein, Olafur Eliasson, and Wassily Kandinsky. 'Pathless Woods' was also included in the group exhibition ‘SYNAESTHESIA: What is the taste of the color blue?’ at Building Bridges Art Exchange in partnership with the Art Sci Gallery at UCLA in 2017.