The Middle of Somewhere
An Artist Explores the Nature of VirginiaAn artist explores Virginia’s natural and human history through essays, sketches, and multimedia assemblages
There’s no such thing as the middle of nowhere. Everywhere is the middle of somewhere for some living being. That was Suzanne Stryk’s mantra as she journeyed through her home state on a mission inspired by the reflective, encyclopedic sensibility of Thomas Jefferson’s book Notes on the State of Virginia.
While acknowledging the moral contradictions in the founding father’s work and life, Stryk offers a contemporary interpretation of Virginia’s ecology from a visual artist’s point of view. She kayaks pristine swamps in river country, wanders the galleries of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, hikes rocky trails across the Appalachians, and strolls the dusty streets of old coal towns. She encounters frogs, millipedes, ravens, dragonflies, sparrows, turtles, and many other species that claim a particular place as home.
Weaving in historical anecdotes and personal memories, Stryk relates her encounters with these beings in their “somewheres.” The creatures in their habitats and the people she meets are characters in the book, a tapestry of essays, lush sketches, and ephemera. Stryk’s multimedia collages, composed of dead bugs, tourist pamphlets, road maps, pressed leaves, rusty farm equipment, animal bones, and handwritten directions, all artistically arranged over USGS topographic maps, bring the narrative to life.
Stryk’s personal accounts and conversational tone make readers feel as if they are traveling across Virginia with a friend, one who is at times funny and at other times deeply reflective. She invites us to travel slowly, tread lightly, and look closely at each somewhere that defines a place.