The Wind Power Debate — Sabra Field

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(HOST) This morning in our special commentary series on the wind energy debate in Vermont, we hear from artist Sabra Field, who has incorporated wind turbines into her representations of what she calls the “cultural landscape”.

(FIELD) Landscape artists have a vested interest in the beauty of their surroundings. Recently I accepted a commission from one of Vermont’s wind energy companies. The task was to integrate wind turbines into one of my woodcuts and I eagerly did so.

My print is of an imaginary valley in the autumn at sunset. On the valley floor are farms with their lights beginning to twinkle. They are in shadow but on the ridgeline behind them are six big beautiful white wind turbines providing the electric power for the milking machines and the lights in the barns and homes.

To be sure those white sails and their vertical supports are a miniscule part of the entire print but I placed them in bright light against a vivid windy blue sky to focus attention on them because I am delighted that Vermonters are becoming aware of the need to embrace a new technology…as we have done since we first harnessed the rivers, logged the forests, sailed our Great Lake, built railroads and factories and the interstates.

Ours is a cultural landscape, not a wilderness. If there ever was a time when the way we live hasn’t been legible on our land it was before recorded history. Vermont is fortunate that our past hasn’t been erased by rapid development. Much of what we think of as beautiful is the result of old technology we’ve gotten used to.

There ARE aspects of our current cultural landscape that make me sad: thoughtless big box sprawl, truck traffic pounding through small towns, homes selfishly built in the middle of meadows. But white structures on the ridge lines that signal our willingness to separate ourselves from dangerous dependence on petroleum, to be the masters of our own destiny…they fit the Vermont ethic of independence as well as the Vermont aesthetic of the well tended farmscapes.

Artist’s seek order in what appears to be a chaotic universe just as scientists, engineers, planners, and politicians do. They gravitate to the order of the built as well as the natural. When they find an implied relationship between the two they feel that rush of “Oh, wow!” I get the same rush from wind turbines that I get from seeing a hill town in Italy whose prominent location on a ridge line speaks of man-made solutions to problems of another era.

I like to think of myself, a woodblock printmaker AND an IRIS printmaker, happily straddling two different technologies separated by thousands of years, but bringing to each medium the same aesthetic. Let’s see if Vermont can adopt another new technology and maintain it’s visual identity at the same time. I think we can.

I’m Sabra Field of East Barnard.

Sabra Field is a Vermont printmaker recognized internationally for her iconic landscapes and images. Tomorrow morning in our commentary series on wind energy, historian Tyler Resch retells newspaperman Bob Mitchell’s story about Grandpa’s Knob.

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