Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24C O M I N G T O P L A C E By any of the gridded and layered indications we use to measure place—the convergence of streets and conduits and human lives—Ucross, Wyoming, population 25, is barely a place at all, just a highway crossing and a few buildings on a narrow flat between the dry hills. Yet year after year, artists come from the intricately gridded and layered parts of the world only to discover, in the absence of nearly everything familiar, just how dense with place Ucross really is. Different artists attribute this quality to different things—to the sky, the wind, the expanse, to the color of the pronghorn hills, to the flow of Piney Creek, to the silence and the sounds that fill what at first seems like silence. But I wonder if it doesn’t all begin in the soil. This thought occurred to me while wandering through the exhibition called Ucross: A Portrait in Place. On short square shelves around one end of the room lay small mounds of earth gathered by Jeanette Hart-Mann from twenty-one carefully-mapped locations in and around Ucross. While I considered these cones—they are slumped and not quite volcanic in shape—I was hearing (overhearing, I suppose, for it wasn’t part of the art-work my eyes were taking in) the sounds of birdsong, which had been recorded at two acoustic monitoring stations that had been placed by Charlie Bettigole and his crew from Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, at locations near the exhibition. Soil and birdsong. I had never consciously put the two together before, if only because they seem, in their materiality and immateriality, almost to oppose each other. But then this is what artists do: they join the tangible and the intangible. Hart-Mann’s complex work is called Without soil there is no color. It might well have been called “Without Soil There Is No Birdsong.” And as I walked through this stirring exhibition, I found myself using versions of that title as subtitles in my mind for many of the other works. “Without Light There Is No Time,” I thought as I looked at Joseph Mougel’s stop-motion video called Sage Brush. “Without Myth There Are No Stars” seemed to be the subtext of Bill Gilbert’s Terrestrial/Celestial Navigations. You perhaps get my point. This is an exhibition in which the works overlap and spill into each other as if they were separate riffles in a single stream. This has partly to do with the fact that they arose from a group residency, in which the artists all shared time at Ucross. It has far more to do with the binding, unifying effect of place on imagination. To see these works in place—in the Big Red Barn at Ucross—is to feel how constructive of place they really are. You come inside out of the sharp Wyoming light, out of the wind, out of the rustle of cottonwood leaves. There’s a familiar blankness to the white walls of the exhibition space, familiar in the way that such spaces go about nullifying a sense of place—as if a sense of place were inimical to the presence of art. But then slowly, one by one, these works begin to rebuild the world around you. At first, you don’t notice the birdsong in the room—it feels instead like an auditory memory you’ve carried in with you like a grass-seed on your pant-leg. You gaze at an ambrotype of a seed husk by Joseph Mougel—it looks like a hieroglyph—and then you find that they’re