artistsMaria Sykes

Aidan Koch

artistsMaria Sykes
Aidan Koch

Frontier Fellow October 2012

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Aidan Koch b. 1988, a native of Washington state, is the author of three book-length comics—The WhaleThe Blonde Woman, and Impressions. She also makes sculptures, ceramics, and textiles that reinterpret the classical motifs that appear in many of her comics.

Aidan Koch and Shawn Creeden at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah

Aidan Koch and Shawn Creeden at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah

After 3 months in the bustling, cultural magnet that is New York City, stepping off the train in the rural town of Green River, Utah was both a shock and relief.

I felt a release of pressures, expectations, and judgements. The freedom of the West! I had brought along two good friends from New York as well while on the way to their own adventure destination, California. Hayley picked up our little group and took us to eat at Ray’s, one of few options in town.

After welcoming co-Fellow Shawn Creeden, who arrived bright and early at the Amtrak platform, we quickly got to work at the Monday morning weekly meeting. This gave us the opportunity to hear more about what goes on at the Epicenter, who’s involved, people’s roles, and services offered. After an official town tour, Hayley helped set up our first ride out at Green River Stables. We got to saddle up and ride around the vast landscape. Having never been to this region of the states before, I have been totally mesmerized by the beauty of the cliffs, buttes, and formations.

The rest of the week sped by, filled with Night School, workshops, adventures, dinners, and discoveries. Shawn and I got to meet a variety of locals, and I got my first intern, a junior at the local high school interested in drawing and art. For the weekend we accompanied Jack Forinash to Bluff, Utah, near the four corners to watch and interact with his University of Utah class. They are working with Design Build Bluff creating housing for suitable candidates in the Navajo Nation.

My first week of introduction took me quickly out of the New York mindset. Being surrounded by such an isolated community of active, inspired people, as well as a breathtaking environment has made me completely forget what things were like in my city life.

By week two I had properly settled in and fully assimilated into Green River lifestyle. And while this includes going to bed by 10PM, there was no lacking of activity. This week in particular was host to multiple community events.

To start, though, former Frontier Fellow Emily Howe took Shawn and me on adventure to Arches National Park. We spent the day hiking and climbing around monumental red, green, and tan rocks. It felt amazing to be out in the open surrounded by such striking natural history and formations.

"Red Sands" book by Aidan Koch, 2012

"Red Sands" book by Aidan Koch, 2012

I started drawing and layed out pages for the book I was making in my time here. I also continued to make small excursions via bike to see more of the area and take reference photos.

With Halloween coming up, the folks at Epicenter were preparing for the Spooktacular event, put on with the Community Center. Shawn and I had the idea of being the musical accompaniment for the event. After discovering that this event was primarily a hay ride leading to a pumpkin patch and bonfire with no option for electricity, our original ideas were challenged. Luckily with a full drum kit available through the Community Center plus an extra snare discovered in storage, sticks from Armando and a pair borrowed from the high school, we were able to perform as the spookiest percussion duo this town has ever seen.

While half of the crew headed to Moab for the Pumpkin Chuckin’, Shawn, Hayley, Chris, and I attended the Horse Show/Gymkhana out at Terry Coppin’s Green River Stables. Besides assisting with the set up, Shawn, Hayley and I all competed in various classes. Having been learning to ride for less than a year and actually still not knowing how to canter, I proudly took home a emerald green 6th place ribbon on Spock in the walk, trot, canter. It was an awesome event to be a part of and to learn more about the community of modern horse culture.

After a day of rest, the real work began. Though still reeling from the excitement of week two it was time to really focus. The majority of the week was spent drawing. Apart from continuing general exploration Ashely dropped Shawn and I off at Swasey Beach nestled in the Lower Gray Canyon for a look around. Apart from the simple pleasure of lying on a beach, I got to play with some natural clays under the sand and left some surprise sculptures for the next beachgoers.

While we had gotten swept up in the Halloween spirit the weekend before, Wednesday brought the true Halloween. I decided not to recreate my robber costume from the Spooktacular and instead donned my large, gray, druid like coat and a big staff using my hair to cover my face. Even though I couldn’t actually see them through my hair, I’m told I creeped out some kids real good as they trick or treated at our house.

After finishing my drawings came production time. Luckily this came about on my day with my intern, Tasia. She assisted me in photocopying, folding, collating, and stapling. It was exciting to see the final product of my effort come together in a nice little book.

Shawn and I had been continuing out riding lessons out at Terry’s stables as well. On Saturday she invited us on a real ride out in the desert. It was an awesome way to test out skills and really just enjoy being out on a horse. We didn’t go too far out of town, but were able to dismount in a couple spots and see petroglyphs and a dinosaur bone still in the rock!

Its hard to believe that I’m coming upon the final week.