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An artistic exploration of the western national parks

Headshot of Savannah Voth

Every spring and summer, the Bill Lane Center sponsors student research projects. Students have the option of designing their own project or joining pre-existing Bill Lane Center research. With an interest in art and poetry, Savannah Voth, '26, created a self-designed project that took inspiration from the western national parks and integrated research on these natural landscapes into original book of illustrated poetry. 

Student: Savannah Voth, ’26, undeclared
Mentor: Keith Ekiss (Creative Writing) and Bruce Cain

Project Description:
Often, we seek nature because it fills us with a sense of the sublime, restores us to a state of childlike wonder, and points to something deeper than itself. In this project, Savannah set out to learn from the techniques that other artists and writers used to capture the awe and wonder that nature instills, while developing techniques of my own. Some of the questions that drove Savannah as she began this exploration: Why are we drawn to natural beauty? How can art and poetry express these inexpressible, ineffable feelings the natural world instills in us, and begin to uncover what it has to say to us through them? What can the two media achieve together that they could not achieve separately? Specifically, how are these questions understood in the tradition of art and literature surrounding the American West? Savannah’s project specifically involved creating art and poetry based on the diverse landscapes of West. Though she mainly focused on the production of original works, Savannah started by looking at existing nature poetry and paintings to gain inspiration. Then she spent the summer travelling to several of the western National Parks, where she documented ideas for poems, made ink and watercolor sketches on-site, and took photos. At home, she refined the poems and completed several studio paintings using the photos for reference. Finally, Savannah consolidated this work into an illustrated book of poetry, combining these two modes of engaging with the beauty of the natural landscape.