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In which we visit artist Lee Boroson in his summer studio in upstate New York, where he was hard at work on his exhibition at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, which opened this week!: http://www.massmoca.org/event_details.php?id=868. Boroson assigns us to create a DESKTOP MONUMENT:

1. Find an image online of a natural setting you have never visited
2. Use the image to create a desktop monument
3. Upload it using #theartassignment
4. Fame and Glory (your work might be featured in a future episode)

To learn more about Lee Boroson: http://www.leeboroson.com/
This week we're meeting with Lee Boroson who can usually be found in Brooklyn but right now is working in his summer studio in upstate New York. He's in high production mode getting ready for his largest show to date which will open at MASS MoCA this fall. He is best known for his large scale sculptural environments that emulate geographical sculptures and phenomena of nature like lava fields, fog, icebergs and waterfalls.   Lee thinks a lot about nature in his work, and not the flat vista that you see behind me now, but the real stuff that we humans experience physically and the way that it's represented in art. So lets go talk to Lee and see what kind of assignment he has for us.   Hi, I'm Lee Boroson and this is your Art Assignment.   The inflatable is something that i've worked with for many, many years now and I've pushed it places it where it won't go, um, I've tried to represent things and do things with it that are really not suitable for it so I've tired to figure out what it does best and use it for that. Moving through fog is about being disoriented, having some sense as to where you are at some moments and other moments not. You know, limited your perception of the world around you, um, although it's the world that you're in. So one moment it can be clear and the next moment it's obscured. And so I'm using materials that will do that.   It's not fog at all; it's-- it's fabric and it's, you know, frosted fabric materials. It's one of the hardest pieces that I've tried to make because the idea is that is supposed to be formless because fog has no form. You know it really is, it's an experience.    It's like seeing the rainbow, it's this incredibly beautiful thing, and it can move you because it just seems so grand and so huge and then when you boil it down it's not a thing that's out there at all it's just, you know, it's a reflection or it's this transition of the light through the water particles. And then to then turn the effect into a thing, um, is really what I was trying to do there. Trying to give you the experience that you can then sort of walk through it. It's, like, frozen.   That's the great thing about sculpture is that it's not, you know, it's not a moment; you move through it and your perspective changes. To not only have the experience of that this thing was created over a long period of time and that you're sort of unraveling it but you're also moving through it and you get the experience of it through time.    Here's your assignment: what you need to do is go on the Internet and find images of a natural setting, tourist destination, someplace that you've never been to. Perhaps that you'd like to go to, um, that you know something about or you know very little about and use that to create your own desktop monument.    We're not looking for, like, a realistic depiction of that thing. We're looking more for the experience of being there through what you researched on the Internet and the images that you found or the image that you work from. The success of the piece is not whether I would be able to say, "Oh that's Yosemite," or "Oh that's a geyser, you know, at Yellowstone." But, to you it has to be the experience of having been there through the image. That's the more important part.    John: So this immediately reminds me of the, uh, pyramid of chewed Nicorette gum I had on my desk when we first met, it was like this massive pyramid of, Giza-style pyramid that each time I would chew a piece of Nicorette I would put it on top.   Sarah: I remember it well. I was so horrified and disgusted by it but now looking back I think it's kind of brilliant.    John: But it wouldn't be a good version of this Art Assignment, actually, because that just captured the visual experience of something. This is about capturing a broader experience, a feeling in response to seeing a landscape.   Sarah: Right, like looking at a picture of Giza and then imagining what it might be like to be there.    John: Right.   Sarah: But I think I'm fascinated by this assignment because I think, you know, all nature is constructed right? So you might as well make it yourself. I mean there is no such thing as untouched nature.   John: Yeah I mean there's this word we use in the study of History all the time the Anthropocene that we now live in, this era of humans interfering with every facet of life on the planet.    Sarah: Right like when you get to some natural setting, how did you get there? Did you drive? Well, that road had implications right? And there are many people in history who have thought about this as well.   John: Yeah there's artists like Olmsted who are always sort of arranging how you're going to look at the natural world.    Sarah: I like thinking of him as an artist, he was actually, like, a landscape architect and designer but, same difference.    John: As we're about to find out.    Sarah: Frederick Law Olmsted is mostly remembered for his fine work as Architect In Chief of Central Park, but one may not think of his landscape architecture when it comes to places like Niagara Falls.    He was an important voice in the Free Niagara movement of the 1860s, which sought to protect the area from industrialists and create a scenic reservation open free of charge to its visitors.    Olmsted's design for the park involved a network of paths through the woods and along the river and creating open vistas that increased ones sense of space and perspective, with some darker forms in the foreground and lighter ones farther away. He was, in a way, turning nature into an art viewing experience. He constructed the park goers relationship to nature, providing the overall composition over the tiny details.    His work shows us how any human intervention into the natural world changes not just nature but they way we see and experience it. Olmsted created new versions of nature and Lee Boroson is encouraging you to do the same, to think about place using limited information to make your own version of nature that captures the feeling of it rather than just the look of it.   Lee: And for me it's also about not using the material that is... that we already associated with that thing. So I'm constantly trying to use something that is not at all of the same ilk as the experience that you're trying to have.    So I'm not going to use water, you know obviously, but I am going to think a lot about water and the way that it has sort of broken down to become fog.   It's also a monument to the time that you spent with that material. It becomes like a mediation between you and that image too. So it's the thing that came from you towards the image and it sort of rests partway between you and that image which you have a view of but you don't have the experience of.    Hi I'm Lee Boroson and this is your assignment! I feel like I'm on Top Chef, one of those ones right.    [Sarah offscreen]: Yeah, yeah...   And this is your ingredient!    [Sarah offscreen]: Yeah, the Iron Chef.   Chef Morimoto! [Laughs]