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“Art in Unexpected Places” is a collaborative presentation by Aspen Art Museum and Aspen Skiing Company that, as its title suggest, presents art in unique and unexpected places. This year, it celebrates its 12th iteration with Mountain Song—an installation by contemporary artist Sarah Cain at Elk Camp on Snowmass Mountain. Now on view through September 30, the large-scale installation incorporates her signature painting style alongside found objects and recycled materials.
For Whitewaller Aspen, we spoke with Cain about her installation, creating works for an environment, and Aspen’s influence on art.
WHITEWALLER: Tell us about your on-mountain installation at Elk Camp on Snowmass Mountain.
SARAH CAIN: I created this work on site over one week right before the winter season opened. A highlight was seeing a grey wolf.
WW: You’re known to use bright colors, improvisation, and found materials. Tell us about the objects you incorporated into this piece and why.
SC: There aren’t the normal objects I tend to use in this work. Within this one I’d consider the canvas and hair ties which tie off the braids to be the objects but then I would also venture further to say the black circle and rainbow rectangle occupy space in an object like way. Also, the carpet of the Elk Lodge was used as an extension of the work, informing the border and overall movement of the work.
WW: You have created expansive, temporary site-responsive works (such as in a parking lot, hotel, abandoned shopping mall) in the past. What does creating works in this type of environment mean to you?
SC: In the beginning these types of spaces held a freedom that was more exciting than a gallery or museum. Working in these spaces forced me to act fast, abandon preciousness and create work that had a present tense energy moving through it. This way of working activated the viewing space in an essential way. I still frequently work in these types of places but also over a decade I’ve figured out how to create a similar excitement inside a discreet object.
WW: Did the climate of Aspen influence your creation?
SC: The drive up and down from the Elk Lodge with its epic views influenced the work. The title is from the old Janes Addiction song. I couldn’t help but hear the first line of Mountain Song as a chorus in my mind while I was racing the sun to get down the mountain.
WW: Is anything in particular in art—a specific movement, medium, or other artist—particularly speak to you, or inspire you right now?
SC: I’ve always loved Arte Povera, Earth Works, and early Feminist performance work. I also really like looking at ceramics as well as when graffiti has been painted again and again with never quite the right color.