DougDeWitt
Winter Solstice- Walking with Dad
wood, metal, glass, sticks, fabric, photo, text, stone, paraffin wax, beeswax, paper
12"h x 100"w x 4"d
This piece was inspired by a lecture I attended. The speaker was an archeo-astronomer who had been studying and mapping ancient American Indian trails in Wisconsin. One day he stumbled into a circle of large stones. Investigating further he discovered more stone patterns, often difficult to discern since they were overgrown with brush and trees or had been disturbed by modern agriculture or development. However, over a period of 15 or so years he and his assistants have been able to map stone patterns throughout the entire state of Wisconsin.

The stones were apparently positioned, perhaps thousands of years ago, and are essentially reflections of astronomical formations in the night sky. There are also lines of stones that point to places on the horizon at which the sun would rise and set on summer and winter solstices. These astronomical arrangements and occurrences would have been much more important to people thousands of years ago than they are to most of us today.

The lecturer tested his theories about the solstice lines by going to particular sites on the dates of modern solstices. On one such day he observed the sun setting exactly at the spot on the western horizon he had predicted, then turned to the east to witness a full moon rising.

I was impressed by the implications of this man’s discovery. First, there was the purposeful placement of large objects over such a huge area by people who would have had to study the sky for decades or generations in order to distinguish predictable astronomical patterns. Secondly, there was the ability of any modern person to recognize and reveal such degraded patterns that, remarkably, still exist thousands of years after they were arranged, as well as thousands of years after those people ceased to exist. And thirdly, is the fact that most modern people couldn’t care less about such things.

The piece I made has a golden disc of beeswax on the left representing the sun. On the right is a translucent disc of paraffin wax representing the moon. The panels on which the wax discs are mounted are hinged so they can be turned to face each other. In the landscape between the sun and moon are a line of stones, a “woods” of sticks, and a photo of a bonfire to “call back” the sun on the shortest day of the year. There is text stamped almost imperceptibly into the wood stating, “went walking with dad” and “winter solstice”. Also, there is a topographical map showing my maternal grandparents’ farm in Ohio where my dad and I hunted rabbits in the winter, and which also shows the cemetery where my dad and grandparents are buried. The solstice symbolizes transition, the passing of time...and the passing of everything else.
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