About this piece:
THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS & THE CHAMONIX ALPS 1934 – 1937. Steep, snowy slopes conceal loaded terrains of uncertainty. Hidden layers and evolving conditions make stability, which depends on cohesion, difficult to predict. Avalanches represent the precarious balance of interdependent elements in nature and how their forces can be triggered to devastating effect. Mountaineers can find themselves in a path of destruction generated by their own behavior. This book, through a story of two climbers, explores human vulnerability and vision in navigating physical and existential risks. The story reflects our era of environmental peril and the blind path of progress toward our own potential destruction. Nature’s perpetual change, unexposed tendencies and infinite interconnections are touchstones of human desire. It is a story of joy and despair woven in wilderness. Narrative layers investigate the inescapable reliance of humans on nature’s infinite complexities. Graphics portray snowflake crystallography, history, geology, and avalanche dynamics.
I grew up in Aspen and in many ways this story is my love letter to that town and the Rocky Mountains. This story is set in Aspen’s quiet years, after the silver boom and before it became a ski destination. It is a town with a history deeply interconnected to its landscape.
The book has been on my mind since I was in Art School, so the meaning of “Avalanche” has acquired many layers. Finished amidst the covid pandemic a time of overwhelm and feeling a bit trapped, the book assumed a timely poignancy.
While I was working on it, I was thinking of the human relationship with nature and its ramifications. (climate/environment) How do we live and navigate our lives with such huge, impending risks towering over our existence?
As I mountaineer, I imbue summits with meaning—we don’t need to climb them, but we do, for myriad reasons.
This book was first inspired by my friend Kirsten Mahler, who died climbing in the alps above Chamonix. Story and text written by artist. All drawings by artist.
paper, ink, thread, book cloth
About the artist(s):
Lives and works in Berkeley, California, United States
Casey Gardner is a book artist and printmaker living in Berkeley, CA. She writes, draws, prints and binds her own limited edition, letterpress-printed artist books with Set in Motion Press. On the surface of pages she sees endless possibilities to convey her multilayered narratives in space, movement and time.
Casey has a BS in Journalism from Colorado University, Boulder, and a BFA in Graphic Design and Printmaking from California College of the Arts. Her books are the recipient of numerous awards and can be found in over sixty collections throughout the United States, Canada and abroad.