KATHRYN GOHMERT, 2018
My earliest memories of my grandfather involve the sounds of his bird calls. A nationally recognized turkey hunter, he wrote a book sharing his techniques, sold his hand-built calls and was sought after by young hunters as a mentor.
The women in my family were never trained in my grandfather’s art before his death, which is odd: most turkey calls imitate the the voice of the female hen. Using his books and cassette tapes, I trained myself to speak my grandfather’s second language. With the generous help of biologists and experienced hunters in Upstate New York, I was able to hone my calling skills, immersed deep in the Hudson Valley wildlife.
The richness of this experience evolved into a series of sound instruments, found object sculptures, drawings and a site-specific installation. As a nod to the material makeup of traditional slate calls, the instruments and sculptures are made of wood and slate. All materials were found on site. Most of the incorporated wood was burned, to reshaped or reform the found object as an intentional gesture, marking the sacredness of the transformation process.
Collectively, the series, Calling Blind, is a metaphor for the basic instinct driving our human story. Our need to make contact - to be seen, heard and validated - is the force behind one of the most vulnerable traits of our species: the timeless practice of crying into a void and waiting for a response. Still today, this act of calling can be seen in each message we send, prayer we speak, place we explore, Golden Record we send into space and tweetstorm we start: a mating call waiting for its confirmation. As our greatest moments of joy often lie in the experience of having contact returned, so then our greatest agonies are often the Robinson Crusoesque moments of realizing we are unheard or alone. These works give form and sound to the act of reaching expectantly into unknown places, the tools we use and the crushing weight of sitting with hope, waiting.
Special thanks to the National Wild Turkey Federation, Kaylee Resha, Jerry Parham, Michael Schiavone, Brian Zielinski, Gene Miller, Douglas Little and Residency 108 for their generous support with this body of work.