KU News Release

April 11, 2011
Contact: Jill Jess, University Relations, 785-864-8858

KU senior installs ‘Earthway Studio,’ a public art, education project on campus

More Information

LAWRENCE — As the sun comes out and melts the freeze of a long winter, it’s not uncommon to daydream about working outdoors. Although most University of Kansas employees can’t drag their desks outside, one student is taking his studio to the outdoors and building it, literally, from the ground up.

While most students were off campus enjoying spring break, Neil Goss, a senior majoring in textiles from Pratt was building “Earthway Studio,” a public art installation he lovingly refers to as a “truncated, inverted teepee.” The studio, constructed entirely from foraged tree limbs and materials, will be his place of work for the rest of the semester. He also plans to use it to reach out to the campus community and share his knowledge of traditional, natural and ancient textiles and ceramic methods.

“In this installation I will be able to share and display the technical and craft skills I have been developing for three years here at the university,” Goss wrote in his proposal for a his senior year textiles project. “Those processes include spinning, dyeing, weaving, basketry and wheel-thrown pottery. My reciprocal relationship with nature will be represented by the use of our vegetal, animal and earth matter to create and compose artworks. Through these activities, I will be able to introduce and expose the general public to the possibilities that are stored in our land.”

The studio, located in the wooded area in front of Lindley Hall and the Art and Design Building, across from the Chi Omega fountain, will be on display until May 15. Goss gathered 21 10- to 12-foot branches and buried them about two feet deep to form the stakes, or walls. He then wound hand-woven and naturally dyed hemp strips around the outside. The top is open.

“It’s essentially a large basket,” Goss said of the studio. “I had the idea of it being open and harnessing energy from the sky and placing it directly into the ground.”

While in the studio he’ll be doing his ceramic, dyeing and weaving work that he would have done indoors, all with the intent of drawing in interested faculty, staff, students and passersby to learn more. Goss will post signs outside the studio explaining the work and will invite interested parties inside to learn more. He has scheduled a series of performances to demonstrate various natural techniques. At 1:45 p.m. on Earth Day, April 22, fellow students Jennifer Walker and Raylene Gutierrez will work with Goss to present “The Earth Dance.” Gutierrez and Walker both are from Topeka.

Goss will be doing the lion’s share of the work on and in the studio, but he credits several students and faculty members for helping make the project a reality. Elizabeth Kowalchuk, associate dean of the School of the Arts in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, awarded Goss a small grant from the school to help fund his public art project.

Faculty guiding Goss in the development of his project include Mary Anne Jordan, professor of textiles and chair of the Department of Visual Arts; Ruth Bowman, associate professor of textiles; David Brackett, assistant professor of textiles; Carla Tilghman, lecturer in textiles, and Marshall Maude and So Yeon Park, assistant professors of visual art.

“Neil has a truly heartfelt interest in sustainable textiles and textile processes,” Jordan said. “He is an ambitious and serious student and we look forward to his work in the Earthway Studio on campus. This will be a new experience for him and for the Department of Visual Art. I hope that people visiting campus and current students will stop to see Neil’s work and engage in a conversation about any aspect of the performance and resulting artwork.”

Other students have also assisted Goss in bringing his Earthway Studio to life. John G. Stringer, a junior from Kansas City, Mo., assembled the studio’s front piece. Jamie Marie LaCore, a senior from Topeka, and Amber Elizabeth Hansen, a spring 2010 master’s degree graduate from Vermillion, S.D., are helping document the performances and other studio events.

Goss plans to graduate in spring 2012. He wants to attend graduate school with the ultimate goal of teaching textiles at the university level. Before entering graduate school, he hopes to take some time to live off the land. His grandparents own a large parcel of land in Oklahoma and he says he’d like to take time to put the lessons he’s learned to use by gathering and foraging everything he needs for food and shelter.

In the meantime, he’s looking forward to practicing traditional, even ancient, native techniques for collecting and dyeing natural fabrics and educating the public about them.

“I think a lot of people have no idea that these things are still being practiced, or ever were practiced,” Goss said.

Goss and other students working with him on this project are listed below by their hometowns, parents’ names and high schools.

From Pratt 67124
Neil Bryan Goss, senior in textiles; Lori Goss; Pratt High School.

From Topeka 66604
Jamie Marie LaCore, senior in design; James LaCore; Topeka High School.

Jennifer Elaine Walker, junior in dance; John and Laurie Walker; Topeka High School.

From Topeka 66614
Raylene Maria Gutierrez, senior in film and media studies; Alfred and Patricia Gutierrez; Topeka West High School.

From Kansas City 64138
John G. Stringer, junior in art; Raytown South High School.

From Vermillion 67069
Amber Elizabeth Hansen, master’s degree in art from KU, spring 2010.

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