Upriver: Mudcracks, Allentown Formation

By Heidi Wiren Bartlett, 2022 resident artist
Collaborators: Dave Sunderlin and Michael McGuire
Cast iron and steel, 2022

Made of rock and cast iron, the sculpture called Upriver: Mudcracks, one of five pieces in the Upriver installation by artist Heidi Wiren Bartlett, stands on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail in Easton, Pennsylvania.

The nature of Nature is change. Though the limey muds of the 500-million-year-old Allentown Formation are reflective of ancient shallow seas, the structures represented in this piece — which stands at 42″ x 52″ x 3″ — are drying-out mud cracks. Whether because of a quick sea level fall or tropical Easton briefly uplifted, these structures formed under the Cambrian equatorial sun.

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:
Gneiss Stone from Hexenkopf Complex
Hardyston Sandstone
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 has been made possible by a generous grant through the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium.

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:
Horses Unplugged, Bethlehem, Pa.
Bluestone Gardens, Raubsville, Pa.
Jim Caffrey Studios, Easton, Pa.
Easton Public Works Department, Easton, Pa.
Quality Machining and Fabrication, Easton, Pa.
Rivers of Steel, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Visionary Effects, Pittsburgh, Pa.