Upriver: Gneiss Stone from Hexenkopf Complex

Heidi Wiren Bartlett, 2022 resident artist
Collaborators: Lafayette College Profs. Dave Sunderlin and Michael McGuire
Rock, 2022

A piece of gneiss stone is one of the five pieces in the art project called Upriver by Heidi Wiren Bartlett on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Much of the metamorphic rock that forms the foundational “basement” of Easton is more than one billion years old. Formed under great pressure and heat deep in the earth during an ancient orogeny (mountain-building event), it is no longer the rock it once was. The rock, now a gneiss, is exposed at the surface after the mountains eroded away.

Debuting in July 2022, Upriver was a conceptual public art piece researched, developed, directed, and constructed by Bartlett, who enlisted actors, artists, scholars, geologists, engineers, musicians, a mule, and a draft horse. Each element was constructed to reflect the potent history of the Lehigh Valley and the myths of “The Place at the Forks.” Director of photography was Margaret Champagne.

The other Upriver installations on the arts trail:
Hardyston Sandstone
Mudcracks, Allentown Formation
Ripple Marks, Allentown Formation
Stromatolite, Allentown Formation

Artist Heidi Wiren Barlett sits on horseback with a man with a cowboy hat speaks to the public in a performance for Bartlett's Upriver artwork on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail in Easton, Pennsylvania

Learn about the related performance event pictured above.

Bartlett is a filmmaker, sculptor, and performance artist from the Great Plains. Her work is concerned with the portrayal, oppression, and subversive existence of women in America today. She sees her body as an object of power and vulnerability, and she sees nature and its processes in the same way. Together these inspire a practice that illuminates the overlooked and forgotten. Whether creating laborious actions or objects, she blurs the line between public and private, deconstructing notions of gender, race, and corporeality. She holds an MA and MFA in intermedia from the University of Iowa. A Pittsburgh resident, she is an artist and designer at Carnegie Mellon University and co-founder of Propelled Animals, a transdisciplinary arts and social justice collective.

In 2021, Bartlett’s work was featured in Resonance: The Journal of Sound and Culture. She was a Max Kade Fellow at Lafayette College, an artist-in-residence at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh, and a National Performance Network Artist Engagement Fund and Storytelling Grant awardee. She was nominated for the United States Artists Fellowship and selected as a roundtable scholar for the spring 2020 What Can Museums Become? symposium hosted by the Stanley Museum of Art at the University of Iowa.

Her studio is housed at the Brew House Association in Pittsburgh, and she is an artist-in-residence at High Concepts Labs in Chicago.

“The deep time recorded in the Pennsylvanian landscape is unlike anything I’ve known, including the geologic time that birthed the American Industrial Revolution. There’s magic in these mountains, and they have much to tell,” she says.

Learn more about Heidi Wiren Bartlett.

Upriver was sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium (LVEHC), with generous support provided by a grant to Lafayette College from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Logo for Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium, a blue drawing with the letters LVEHC and the ground, trees, and buildingsA logo for Easton features a silhouette of a bugler and below it the words Easton, Pennsylvania

Special thanks to the following Upriver collaborators (all in Pennsylvania):
Horses Unplugged, Bethlehem
Bluestone Gardens, Raubsville
Jim Caffrey Studios, Easton
Easton Public Works Department, Easton
Quality Machining and Fabrication, Easton
Rivers of Steel, Pittsburgh
Visionary Effects, Pittsburgh