Interview with David Buckley Borden: Wild West at BDGA



Bodega recently teamed up with artist David Buckley Borden for an installation that may be one of the most informative yet. Taking inspiration from America's long-running conflicted relationship with its landscape and natural resources, the installation offers an outlet that expresses these concerns in an artistic and visual driven medium. The work includes drawings, prints, art objects and custom displays and features cross-disciplinary collaborations with a variety of creative talent. For the full interview and plenty of imagery hit the link below. Bodega: Tells us a little about yourself? DBB: I’m a Cambridge-based artist and designer. My work is focused at the intersection of landscape, art and cultural event and includes a variety of work ranging from landscape installations to pen and ink drawings to print making. I’m particularly interested in landscape architecture, ecology, and the past, present and future challenges to the lands of North America.




Bodega: Tell us a little bit about your new installation at Bodega. DBB: Wild West at BDGA is a multi-disciplinary art and design installation focused on America’s conflicted relationship with its landscape and natural resources. The installation sets aside the popular narrative of inflated romance and violence associated with young America’s western frontier experience for a narrative that instead positions the “Wild West” in terms of regional landscape ecology. There are troubling parallels to the Old West. The ecological Wild West of today, like that of yesteryear’s Wild Wild West, is marred by violence, conquest, and unchecked exploitation. The critical difference is that the stakes are exponentially higher and operate on a regional scale with both local and global impact. The installation’s research-based work includes maps, drawings, prints and a variety of cross-disciplinary collaborations to illustrate species extinction, resource scarcity, chronic landscape disturbances, and the destruction of critical ecological systems within the contiguous United States.




Bodega: Why did you decide to choose the Wild West as a theme for an installation about landscape ecology. The myths and ideals of the Old West have a firm hold on our collective imagination. Two hundred years later, the Wild West is still a popular tale of conquest, settlement, natural resource extraction, bold capitalism, and shifting political states. I’ve deliberately framed pressing landscape ecology issues within context of the Wild West because it’s a powerful folklore that resonates with Americans. My intention was to leverage the imagery of the Old West as an educational device, in the service of the ecological health of the United States. I think the narrative is still one of survival and resilience, but its no longer about the individual, its about American society.



Bodega: Is it all doom and gloom for the American environment? Not yet. Frederick Jackson Turner’s 1893 "Frontier Thesis" claims that the taming of the West was a transformative process. The collective experience morphed our immigrant population into a new people, Americans. These new Americans’ values centered on optimism, self-reliance and individualism. I hope that solving our environmental issues will transform us again, this time into Americans whose values are centered on optimism, self-reliance and the collective good of the environment and ultimately ourselves. This isn’t about tree-hugging, this is about our survival as a people. And, I imagine it is going to get worse before we start pulling on those collective bootstraps.




Bodega: Why you were interested in Bodega as an outlet for your landscape work? DBB: Well, I’m currently pivoting my creative practice from traditional corporate design to concentrate on my own vision of what it means to be a landscape architect. Considering Bodega’s status as a cultural hotspot and a supporter of the DIY creative scene, it was my first choice for the project. Its not just that Bodega gets a lot of foot traffic, but the people that go to Bodega are generally design savvy, engaged in the arts and interested in new ideas…I couldn’t resist making the proposal to you guys first. Beyond this, I really saw Bodega as an opportunity to communicate important landscape ecology issues to a new audience of design-savvy folks. I’m very interested in intentionally positioning landscape issues in non-traditional venues, in an effort to make it more relevant and accessible to non-designers. And, as an environmental/experience designer I was also interested in embracing the store as a creative opportunity to integrate an art and design exhibition into a retail setting, especially a fabled retail operation such as Bodega.




Bodega: You describe Wild West at BDGA as being “a multi-disciplinary art and design installation.” Tell us more about that. DBB: Generally speaking, my work is collaborative in spirit and practice. This install is a “multi-disciplinary art and design” installation in that it was produced by a select team of creative professionals with a diverse set of skills and interests. Although the project can be seen as an exhibition of art and design, it is also an exhibition of skill and talent. The creative crew consists of print makers, landscape architects, communication designers, architectural designers, a corporate ad executive, a wood worker, leather worker and a spatial data analyst. Outside of the print makers, this installation was the first “art show” for many of these folks. Essentially we abstracted their skill sets from their typical professional practice and re-focused it in the context of a visual art installation. The resources and creative support of a multi-disciplinary team allowed us to push the boundaries to the point where its difficult to draw the line between what’s art and what’s design and ultimately what’s the store and what’s the installation. The multi-disciplinary approach also enabled us to integrate product design such as custom shelves, frames and map hangers. Its also how we were able to produce some of the more non-traditional maps, such as the ‘United States of Highways” map and the “Industrial Livestock” cow hide map.




Bodega: What can you tell us about the Wild West at BDGA shirt design. DBB: Early on in the project, I developed some typography for the install. The type was a sort of cut and past design that used historic photography of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Rider weapons. Roosevelt was an interesting character in that during different periods of his life he was both an exploiter and protector of American natural resources. The “S” in Wild West was the start of typography series and was based on the old saying “to shoot yourself in the foot,” as in to do something ecologically foolish that later causes problems for you down the road…like mismanaging your natural resources at the expense of future generations. So, the BDGA shirt was created out of this design development. I added the red and blue stripes to ground the design and underscore the conflict inherent in the installation. It’s a little sad that red and blue flags now represent political conflict in this country. We need that white flag back.




Bodega: What are some other types of projects you are working on? DBB: For the fall I’m working on a folk-mapping collaboration with fellow artist and landscape designer, Laura Harmon that responds to super storm Sandy in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood. I’m developing a project with Andy Sturdevant that explores the cultural landscape of the Yankee Diaspora with a focus on the “Mid West of New England.” And, I’m working up some experiential branding with Ryan Habbyshaw and Kim LaFoy. Beyond that, this summer I’ll be in the thick of my Trifecta Editions artist residency.




Bodega: Tell us more about your Trifecta Editions artist residency. DBB: I’ve been selected as the 2014 Trifecta Editons’ Artist-In-Residence and will spend most of this summer designing and building a handful of woodland ecology-based landscape installations at the Trifecta artist-retreat, a 50 acre plot of land at Eagle Lake in Ticonderoga, New York. The installations will be site-specific built works, similar to my recent landscape-a-day proposal project. I’ll also be creating 2D work as part of the residency, including a print series with Trifecta. The following year, there will be an exhibit showcasing the work. It’s going to be great.




David Buckley Borden installation, Wild West at BDGA opens this Saturday at Bodega, May 17th, with an opening reception from 7-9PM. Catch more of David’s work and his artist talk at Trifecta Edtions’ pop up arts and culture event at Forth Wall Project, May 22 to May 25. More info here. Find more of his work at, on Tumblr at and follow him on instagram, @davidbuckleyborden.




LINKS Images: Tommy Boudreau