06 April 2013

To the Sicilians: stone fences

We were intrigued as we drove around by the stone fences. The fences were sometimes hard to distinguish from outcroppings. They were mostly dry wall, that is, no mortar. The enclosures varied in size and we didn't often see occupied enclosures but did see cows in an enclosure near this scene along the road between Vittoria and Modica, down in southeastern Sicily.

I just got out of the closing VRA plenary lecture by Alex MacLean whose aerial photographs document land use and settlement, city edges, topography, and, intriguingly, the fourth dimension of time. His words on how motion and time are manifest in a photograph were compelling: light (time of day), climate (mistiness rising off a river), human intervention (dust trail behind a car), abandoned buildings. He also talked a bit about how field size may be determined by how many stones are available and how far you'd be willing or able to move them.

As an aside: MacLean mentioned studying at Harvard with John Brinckerhoff Jackson, the great landscape historian and writer. Thinking about Jackson always reminds me of Nancy Wynne, long-time librarian at the Amon Carter Museum, who had a lovely watercolor by J.B. Jackson hanging in her home. Nancy was Milan Hughston's predecessor as head librarian at the Carter and, at the same time, my predecessor as cataloger.

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