We at Bootstrap Adventure enjoy good follow ups and here's one about what artist and long distance hiker Faith Rumm has experienced since our interview in 2015. We are excited by Faith's travels and productivity with her paintings of the John Muir Trail in her project called Walking in Muir's Light.
The John Muir Trail (JMT) is a long-distance trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, passing through Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. From the northern terminus at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley and the southern terminus located on the summit of Mount Whitney, the Trail's official length is 210.4 miles (338.6 km), with an elevation gain of approximately 47,000 feet. For almost all of its length, the trail is in the High Sierra backcountry and wilderness areas. For about 160 miles (260 km), the trail, named for naturalist John Muir, follows the same footpath as the longer Pacific Crest Trail.
Faith was hoping to accomplish at least 100 paintings and at the time of our initial interview, she was up to about 23 paintings. So of course we asked "How has your progress gone?" Faith responds:
It’s coming along steadily and surely. If I count all the pieces, including those that are now sold and out of my hands I’m up to nearly 60. The series is called Walking In Muir’s Light – the John Muir Trail 100 Paintings Project. I have had one solo show in 2016, with two more shows this February, and more exhibits coming down the pike. I hope to culminate with an art book. It may take some time to complete this project properly. An artist friend and mentor, Doug Lindstrand, has counseled me to “take my time” with this project. That’s good advice, as I tend to push hard and fast. I also tend to get waylaid by work projects and other artistic escapades, but I always do come back to this project.
The vast majority of the trail is situated within designated wilderness. The trail passes through large swaths of alpine and high mountain scenery, and lies almost entirely at or above 8,000 feet (2,400 m) in elevation. About 35% of the trail lie above 10,000 feet. The trail has been described as "America's most famous trail" and was named #1 in Backpacking magazine’s Top 10 List of Best Long Distance Hikes in the World. Known for its relative solitude, the trail sees about 1,500 thru-hiking attempts each year (including Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers), many fewer than the number of attempts on comparable walks such as the southern portion of Appalachian Trail or the Way of St. James.
What started this 100 Paintings Project in the first place?
I have spent a good part of my life living in, hiking and climbing mountains in the High Sierra. Among many other trips I have through-hiked the John Muir Trail four times now. The first was when I was twenty, (I’m 55 now) and the latest was in 2014. Besides being very attracted to the idea of creating a big project focusing on the things I love, lately, it looks like the whole idea of designated wilderness and wilderness protection is now threatened. I want my paintings to be a voice for wilderness. The paintings give people an opportunity to “step in” and reconnect with wild nature, a delight to the eyes, and a soothing balm for the soul. People need connection with nature!
Edward Abbey said “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” What is your reaction to that statement?
For me, true. I have always relied on getting away to nature to get centered, to heal, to feel strong, to stay healthy in mind and body. Life is busy, pressing and stressful at times, and as an artist and business owner I get strapped down to day to day obligations just as all of us do. If I can’t get away for a large chunk of time, a day or half day trip can help. This is one of the main reasons I moved close to the mountains I love. If I can take a day I take it in Yosemite. Short excursions can “ease the pain,” soothe the soul—for a little while. Eventually though, it’s important to plan something bigger. My travel-bug-bite is pretty bad. Last year, I booked an airline ticket for the October Camino hike in May. The thought of that big adventure coming up kept me going throughout an intensely busy summer.
Yes, we knew you traveled internationally since your last interview with Bootstrap Adventure. Has this changed your views of adventure or your desire to experience wilderness?
In 2016 I spent a total of 8 weeks in Europe. My quest in part was to absorb as much art and art history as possible to inspire and inform my own work. I scoured museums in Amsterdam, the Hague, Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris and London. It was a deep education, a profound inspiration.
I was glad to follow all that up with a 200 mile walk on the Camino de Santiago (the French Route) in October. Over the summer I also managed to squeeze in a few Sierra backpacks and Yosemite painting trips. I am a nature girl at heart. Big cities and museums are thrilling to explore, but eventually I crave natural environments and simple walking in fresh air. The Camino walk was amazing.
Did you regard your travels in Europe an adventure?
I have been to Asia four times, but never to Europe, so for me this was indeed, a grand adventure. I traveled lightly and stayed in hostels. Some travel was solo, some with my son, and some with friends old and new. Immersing in so much art, and striving to understand the thinking of artists of a particular time felt deeply adventurous, if not in a physical way; an adventure of the mind and spirit.
Did your travels this year change your desire to explore wilderness?
If anything, I appreciate wilderness more than ever, and crave it more than ever. Preserved and designated wilderness is a uniquely American concept, brought about by the vastness of this country, and our particular history of development. America is mind-boggling in it’s diversity of environment, but also vulnerable to the insatiable appetite of human consumption. This was recognized over 100 years ago. If it weren’t for visionary effort of poets, artists, scientists and politicians past and present, we wouldn’t have wilderness in this country to enjoy today.
It’s often the little things we see along the way that are rewarding. They lend inspiration to our art or writing. But there is also great awe in viewing vast scenes of nature. What do you focus on in this John Muir Trail 100 Paintings Project?
Both. The JMT 100 alternates iconic scenic views with intimate details. It’s a beautiful feeling to be humbled by a vast landscape. It’s strangely satisfying to feel oneself as a tiny insignificant speck in the universe. And then to focus in on a small detail such as the intricacy of a tiny alpine plant, and to think of how they (and we) fit into that huge picture, minuscule but never diminished; that is a profound thought. Also, it’s endlessly intriguing to notice how, in nature, patterns on a large scale tend to repeat themselves in microcosm. As an artist, observing nature in both its vastness and its detail is equally compelling. I remember a video I saw that zoomed out from a spot on a lawn, then out to the planet, the out to the solar system, then out and out to multiple galaxies and so on, then zoomed back in to that lawn, to a person sitting on that lawn, to their skin, to a cell in the body, to atoms to… it just goes on and on. Thinking of it that way, exploring one trail via 100 paintings barely scratches the surface.
We can visit the same wilderness area many times but never repeat the same adventure twice—the path taken, duration of trip, weather, season, and our companions change everything. Sometimes things like choosing the “edge” of a season--spring into summer, summer into fall, fall into winter—is unexpectedly revealing of nature’s impact on the places we visit and the timing can create challenges turning a trip in to a real adventure. Can you share a story of this?
One benefit of hiking the same trail over and over again is that you experience different weather and lighting conditions each time. Sometimes if we do one thru-hike in a place, we get a static image of a certain scene glued into our minds. That’s all fine, but it’s also good to realize that nothing is static, these places are ever-changing. I have made several paintings at Marie Lake, and am launching into yet another, because the personality of the lake changed so drastically each time I visited it. One time I experienced a huge and terrifying electrical storm, one time the sky was so blue that the lake became this incomprehensible deep blue…thing; another time the wind whipped magical sparkles across the lake that mesmerized me for a long period of time.
Has your recent art-making piqued your interest in taking on a new adventure? Perhaps revisit the old or find something new, near or far?
I’m always up for new adventure. I booked a trip to Belize to snorkel and see the Blue Hole, and amazing Mayan ruins. I might try some watercolors there, as I did on the Camino. I also have painting road trips I’d like to take this year; I bought a van that I’m outfitting to be a good travel/paint van! Both of these will involve creating smaller work, which will be a change from the ongoing large-scale JMT paintings.
On the other hand, has any recent adventure energized you to take on a new creative project or use a different medium for your artistic expression?
Yes! I got very caught up last spring in a new series of “nature tapestries” involving illustrations I have created for interpretive projects repurposed by cutting, collaging, adding fabric and metallic paints. It’s very fun and I look forward to doing more work on that at some point this year. Also I always think about a Yosemite series, perhaps a granite fracture series, or a lake series. My brain piles up more ideas than I can possibly tackle. Time will tell.
We’d love to learn more about your adventures and art. While we hope you’ll share more right here about your adventures, where can our readers find your art on display or for sale?
I’ll be showing in Sausalito, CA Feb 1-March 8 at The Madrigal, (see flyer) and the San Joaquin River and Parkways Conservation Area near Fresno, Feb 11-April 30. I also have my studio 4996 7th Street in Mariposa, CA 'till end of April. I do not keep regular hours so it’s best to schedule an appointment 209 769-3836. And my website is www.faithrumm.com. I also post new work pretty regularly on Facebook at Faith Rumm, and sell via Facebook personal messaging.