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  • Writer's pictureAmy Felder

Sounds of Northern Colorado

Inspired by my demerit badge Noise Pollution, I created a sound map from sounds I recorded over several weeks of research. As Gude (2004) proposed, I am “seeing [my] own artmaking, not as exercises, but as research that produces new visual and conceptual insights” (p. 8). In our day-to-day lives, we are constantly bombarded by sounds and noises, most of which we block out as we go about our busy days. By incorporating a QR code that viewers can scan to listen to a playlist of recordings, my work invites the viewer to slow down and pay attention to the sounds of nature and civilization. The map is interactive and multi-media, engaging the eyes and ears of the viewers.

Using appropriation, I drew a map I found online of the Poudre Canyon, Fort Collins, and Greeley, where I made the sound recordings and photos. All three places are connected by the Poudre River, which I sewed by hand to give it an organic feel. I chose to use the sewing machine on the roads to mimic how they are machine made. Unlike my earlier work, which only mapped the natural and manmade features, this piece also maps sound features that correspond to photographs I transferred directly onto the map. The work juxtaposes the sounds and imagery of nature with the sounds and imagery of suburbia and city life.

Unlike modernists who “think themselves and their art apart from and above the ordinary events of their day,” I approach my art from a very practical standpoint by exploring everyday life through my work (Barrett, 1994, p. 121). On a hike on the Hewlett Gulch Trail in the Poudre Canyon, I recorded a brook babbling, birds calling, the wind blowing, and my hiking boots crunching on the snow. Then, walking my dog in a nearby neighborhood park, I recorded an owl hooting, a stream flowing, rain hitting my umbrella, an airplane flying over, and more birds singing. Lastly, while attending an event at UNC, I ate lunch outside, where I could hear someone playing a piano through an open window of a nearby building. It was so lovely I knew I had to record it and immediately a siren of an ambulance began. All of these sounds are a part of my personal experience. The sounds combined with the photos are a form of personal narrative. They are observed moments in my day. Yet, they speak to a larger issue, in fact, a global issue. The sounds of nature and the sounds of quiet are becoming rarer. Instead we are faced with the noise of civilization, air traffic and sirens. Even the park system and the wilderness are unable to provide the escape, silence and peace of mind that they once did.

My experience during the artmaking process was a letting go of my traditional methods of painting and my need to make beautiful landscapes. I no longer see myself as an artist who must make something beautiful. I am free now to focus on making a statement, a statement that will hopefully help others see themselves and their relationships with the environment in a new way. My work fully embodies the postmodern principle that “art ought not be separated from life, that art can and should refer to things other than art, and that art can and should be about more than its own form” (Barrett, 1994, p. 120). As a true postmodernist, I am skeptical of humanity. My work no longer strives to show what could be but instead reflects harsh reality.


Barrett, T. (1994). Criticizing Art: Understanding the Contemporary. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Gude, O. (2004). Postmodern Principles: In search of a 21st century art education. Art education, 57(1), 6-14.

Image credit: Sounds of Northern Colorado, 2019 | Fabric paint and thread on fabric | 17x24 inches

What sounds do you think are worth protecting?

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