Photos courtesy of Dr Daniela Bertol

Dr Daniela Bertol developed SUNFARM, an experimental land-art initiative, for nature-guided meditation in Columbia County.

Artists flock to the Hudson Valley, inspired by beautiful natural surroundings. The area has been an important creative and spiritual center for generations, and the most famous Hudson River School painters have captured the sights and scenes of New York City. The region is also home to historic Buddhist temples, Hindu samaj, and Christian churches. As the practice of yoga and meditation has grown in popularity in recent years, studios have sprung up in the valley.

These are just a few of the reasons why Dr Daniela Bertol, an Italian multidisciplinary artist, first came to the Hudson Valley. Bertol chose Columbia County as the site for his land-art exploration SUN over two decades ago. The permanent exhibition on Work and Art in Nature features numerous sculptures and a layout that follows the movements of the sun.

Views of “Zen Square”, “Geometric Progressions 16r ^ 2n” and “SUNFARM house” from a 360 ° panorama, October 11, 2020

“My ex husband [David Foell] was smashing through the bush and making our way through this totally overgrown land when we discovered this beautiful hill with a great view. It was completely hidden from the road, and we felt love at first sight, ”recalls Bertol of his first visit to the property. “It has always been my dream to create a work based on nature, where nature is incorporated into art.”

Bertol studied architecture at the University of Rome and moved to the United States in the 1980s. Although his first artistic expressions were oil paintings on canvas, his work eventually moved to the digital sphere. The advent of computer technology in the 1980s presented new opportunities. Finally, Bertol discovered the land-art movement. His most notable influence was the sculptor Robert Smithson. Famous smithson built Spiral pier on the shores of Great Salt Lake in Utah. He used mud, salt crystals, and basalt rocks to create the massive spiral shape. Additionally, the Dia Art Foundation acquired the clay sculpture in 1999, four years before opening Dia: Beacon in Dutchess County.

"Solstice monument", August 2, 2007

“Solstice Monument”, August 2, 2007

Certainly, Bertol found many links with the Hudson Valley. While in New York City, she felt a peace in her escapes north.

“Olana is a destination for me when I need to regain some energy. I was working in the city and looking for a place that was more than just a weekend getaway. I was looking for a place to make my dreams come true, ”says Bertol. She and her ex-husband, an architect specializing in infrastructure and transportation, visited an estate in Claverack in the late ’90s. Meanwhile, Hudson had yet to explode with eclectic shops and wine bars. . Columbia County was mostly farmland and forest, and the old bee farm provided the perfect canvas for Bertol’s own spiral.

Shadow aligned with the meridian at the midday columns", October 27, 2020

Shadow aligned with the meridian at the midday columns ”, October 27, 2020

The couple bought the property in 1999 and started working on the current project in 2001. Bertol continuously developed the landscape until 2013, when several life events got in the way. A little over a year ago, she came back to finish what she had started, with her daughter by her side.

At SUNFARM, which is both a sculpture park and a digital experience, Bertol uses the earth itself as a medium. The acronym SUNFARM stands for Investigation of the space-time spiral system of the nature of the universe in a future movement of artistic revolution. However, the name is also a fitting coat rack: Bertol’s bio-art project follows the movements of the sun. His work generates awareness of where we are in space and time based on celestial events, namely sunrise and sunset.

Aerial photo of SUNFARM looking southeast, July 7, 2007

SUNFARM aerial photo looking southeast, July 7, 2007

Following in Frederic Church’s footsteps, Bertol meticulously designed the 68-acre landscape to draw attention to our connection to nature. It continues the Hudson River School tradition of taking an “almost mystical view” of local topography.

For example, she aligned the sunrise trellises—And many other site features — at the fall and spring equinoxes. During these specific times of the year, the sun rises directly above the trellises, framed by two hickory trees. Likewise, the characteristic spirals of SUNFARM represent the daily trajectory of the sun. They are connected by a three-quarters of a mile footpath axis that runs east to west. The Bertol East Spiral, completed in 2009, is the lowest point of the property and its global axis (connection to the center of the Earth). For many cultures, the global axis sanctify a place. She created this spiral from an excavated pond; during the equinox, the sun is reflected along a line that crosses the water.

Sun framed by "Sunrise trellis", April 30, 2021

Sun framed by “Sunrise Trellis”, April 30, 2021

“It’s quite magical to see the sun set in the axis of the equinoxes,” remarks Bertol. She positioned this spiral along the four cardinal points, a pattern common on the spot. Everything SUNFARM points like an arrow, and its layout is essential to how Bertol wants you to experience it. “The spiral has become de facto the“ brand logo ”of this place. The form interprets the relationship between self, environment and time. Because time is both linear and cyclical (Earth revolves around the sun, four seasons, etc.), I used a propeller. Directly across from East Spiral is West Spiral, the site of an observatory to the naked eye.

Bertol breaks down the dense philosophical ideas about the cosmos through this geometry. There, she hopes that customers will feel more present and free from negative thoughts. Visitors have an incredible vantage point to observe the stars in the center of the propeller. Historically, naked eye viewing dates back to the Indigenous peoples of the Hudson Valley. In fact, visitors to SUNFARM actively contribute to art just by being there. By walking mindfully, clients capture “the sublime” through the union between body and nature. Here, perception is an art.

Screenshots of walking meditation video recording "Art observations on foot in a conscious landscape", June 30, 2020

Screenshots of the video recording of the walking meditation “Walking Art Observations on a Mindful Landscape” conducted by Dr Daniela Bertol, June 30, 2020

Bertol improves this perception through meditation and the practice of yoga. “Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘union’, union between body, mind and spirit and unity between breathing and movement. It is based on alignments, both geometric and fluid, ”explains Bertol.

Most yoga sessions use positions to align the body. Think of the warrior pose, down dog or tree. However, focusing only on body posture cancels out the environment. Yoga at SUNFARM encourages participants to recognize their body Related to earth and to heaven. “Here we havealign the body according to the four cardinal points. This can be done outdoors, but I also have an onsite studio that is centrally aligned to north, east, west, and south. As we focus on our own bodily alignments, we become aware of the outer landscape. “

"Work pyramid": functional art as a sundial, October 10, 2020

“Working Pyramid”: functional art as a sundial, October 10, 2020

It goes even further during major celestial events: solstices and equinoxes. “Walking Art Observations in a Mindful Landscape” commemorates these occasions. This series of guided meditation began with the summer solstice in June 2021 and continues with the autumn equinox in September 2021. The participants line up on a path marked by a checkerboard of red and gray cobblestones. This pattern gives structure and rhythm to the 135-foot walk, starting with a left foot on one color and a right foot on the other. With one step you breathe in and with the other you breathe out. All the while, the walk is directed towards a fractal sculpture titled Helix of time.

In addition, Google Earth shows another side of the landscape. Satellite images reveal the precise but simple shapes that structure the site. On Bertol’s websites, customers can find out SUNFARM digitally. The interactive page presents the location and meaning of each sculpture and each line spanning the property.

"Helix of time" and "Equinox azimuth", January 1, 2007

“Time Helix” and “Equinox Azimuth”, January 1, 2007

“My new approach is to merge three different worlds: art, nature (not an artistic representation of nature, but the thing itself) and the digital world. [It’s] how something very physical, primordial, phenomenological – which is the relationship between ourselves and the environment around us – can be filtered through digital technology, enriching personal experience, ”says Bertol. However, nothing beats the experience of being present in nature. At September 22, 2021, Bertol leads a meditation while walking. The evening ends with a sunset perfectly along the created axis, thus demonstrating the whole concept. Above all, she hopes to give people a bit of a break from difficult times.

“Focus on yourself and the environment. Whatever negativity surrounds you, it is being forgotten for that specific moment of peace. In a way, you isolate yourself from everything else. The past 18 months have been a collective experience of negativity. My intention is to get people out of this negativity.

Related: Larger-Than-Life Ogle Art in the Hudson Valley Sculpture Parks


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