Traveling allows us to see landscapes we wouldn't be able to explore otherwise. Sometimes, the beauty is so enthralling that we'd like to extend our stay to immerse ourselves in it, or simply have a version of it we could carry with us to marvel at back home. Inspired by questions about personal land preservation and wondering how the hurried pace of travel can be slowed to a moment of respite, environmental artist Kathleen Vance launched her Traveling Landscapes series. With it, she creates miniature landscapes inside vintage suitcases and trunks.
“In first creating the Traveling Landscape series, I was thinking about accessibility to nature and exploring the concept of ‘untouched natural sites,’” Vance tells My Modern Met. “The idyllic landscapes I sculpt are visual fusions from my personal memories of travels and focus on waterways as a primary element. I consider these a reminder of how precious our natural resources are, and how it is necessary to protect these vital elements for life”.
The initial pieces of Traveling Landscapes were created in 2005 and each contained soil, water, and grasses native to the area it depicted. “It was created as a ’site displacement’ sculpture, in which I removed the soil and plants from a designated streamed and transplanted them into a container,” the artist says. “The use of containment in this way led to the idea of travel and transport itself, and the container became a main element in my sculptural language”.
The well-traveled aesthetic wouldn't come alive if it weren't for the wide array of antique luggage Vance uses in her work. These additions further the message she's trying to put out into the world. “I use primarily vintage luggage for this series as it denotes not only this concept of containment, but travel, preciousness, and possession,” Vance points out. “I consider each case carefully, investigating its prior history, its owner, and for which type of travel it was designed to be used. All these indicators help to inform the landscape that I create.
Vance explains that she looks for specific styles of personal luggage, especially the more unique varieties. “I am particularly drawn to train cases and steamer trunks because they act as a metaphor of a slower pace of travel and are a reminder that it was once very difficult to move from one geographical area to another”.
Throughout her expressive body of work, Vance strives to connect people to local aspects of nature that are overlooked or underappreciated, opening new channels to bring nature into our daily lives. If you want to stay up to date with Traveling Landscapes and the rest of her work, you can follow her on Instagram.