Kelly Sinclair Vicars

Listening in Void Space
North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center
July – August, 2020

Into the Chaos Trees
handmade charcoal, foraged pigment and acrylic on reclaimed board
4 x 3½ ft

West Rim, Before the Rain
handmade charcoal, foraged pigment and acrylic on reclaimed board
3½ x 4 ft

Morning After Snow
handmade charcoal, foraged pigment and acrylic on reclaimed board
4 x 2½ ft

What exists in the void space left by the mine? My project explores the embodied experience of deep listening with an extracted landscape. 

The Diggins’ Are Alive group show at the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center with artist Molly Jochem.


I am interested in what it means to listen ​with​: our bodies, each other, place. Navigating inner and outer landscapes using a soft-edged black shape as both a mirror and a metaphor for the unknown, I create art that reflects place through a colorful, embodied language of perception. Rooted in site-specific practices of deep listening, pilgrimage, meditation, foraging, and material alchemy, I transform underworld and waste stream materials into art.

My thesis project constellates in and around Malakoff Diggins, a defunct Gold Rush era mine in western Nevada County. Engaging the notion of the void as both a landscape feature — the earthen absence created by hydraulic mining during the second half of the 1800s; as well as the human lives and ecosystems the Gold Rush “voided” displaced, and erased; and as an analogy for the “magic dark” of perceptual space across which neurons form colorful, cross-sensory connections; my project explores what it means to listen with an extracted landscape. Through deep listening, a practice of open and inclusive listening created by composer Pauline Oliveros, I listen ​with​ the living sounds of the landscape as they appear as synesthetic color-forms in my perceptual space. Back at my studio, I use homemade charcoal, foraged pigment, and leftover acrylics to paint abstract compositions that reflect my experience listening with each site. This mixture of natural, found, and industrially-produced, synthetic materials mirrors the material ecosystem of the mine and of our world in 2020. The eight paintings are themselves objects of their environment, subject to change and decay. Listening deeply in the void space of the mine allows me to shift from being out in the world to being embedded in it, and opens possibilities for an imaginative re-encounter with the mine as a complex, colorful living landscape home to a resilient, remediative ecology of interbeing.

— Kelly Sinclair Vicars