Cochran Mill Park presents Atlanta-based artist lauri stallings’ Barefoot Island, for those who can't stop flying home on view since July 7 through November 26, 2023. stallings’ first installation at Cochran Mill Park unveils new sculptural works exploring our relationship to Southern ecosystems and the shifting nature of topography and natural resource lines. The work is in close collaboration with artist and Georgia Tech resident beekeeper Janelle Dunlap, professor of architect and street art producer Keif Schleifer, and musician Kebbi Williams. 

The installation features a 20-foot amphibious living sculpture titled P.M, fabricated on-site in response to the park’s unique waterfront location along Bear Creek on its way to the Chattahoochee River. This deck structure, which includes blooming edible plants, reaches from the shore out across the creek, and was made out of reclaimed stacking materials and lumber pieces. The garden uses a bio-filtration system to clean the creek much like a typical aquarium filter, but in this case the filter itself is the garden on its surface, a reminder of a life support system, and the delicate nature of how the smallest movements support balanced ecosystems.

“Cypress vine, malabar spinach and other creepers make their way up and down the dock. Lemongrass, greens, and a variety of herbs grow thick. More than 9 weeks since it opened, the installation continues to flourish unchecked. Some plants thrive, others have completed their life cycles; nature, we infer, is not some linear progression, with a clear beginning, middle and end, but an intersection of multiple cycles,” says lauri stallings about her installation at the park. “And there is also hope. By intentionally not publicizing up to now, and letting the elements alter the work every day, I am reminded that survival is bound to the survival of one another and the earth. It reminds me of the rhythms of nature and keeping pace with the world around us, as well as the interconnectedness of time, water, and life cycles. My body-based work shows me this, movement communicates this. It is difficult to see an entire ecosystem, but the practice of choreography, on land, on water—in amphibious space— and, nature’s very ability to not only adapt but thrive in in the cracks–- suggests that, if we listen and learn from it, if we allow ourselves to imagine a radically different order, life beyond this moment of raging, and fire, might just be possible. “

The work also includes a sound installation by Williams of atmospheric rhythms and a pulsating hum—similar to the flow of water. Williams aims to reflect on how similar we are to water and how it breathes just like we do—if we only decide to listen to it. Dunlap has reimagined a recycled parachute into a large canopy, suspended along a trail where it bends towards the creek, in bird’s eye view of the garden. Dunlap is concerned with ideas around re-establishment, and acts of doing with intention with the earth (cooling). Since winter, stallings has appreciated working with Schleifer and her wonderfully talented School of Architecture, Kennesaw State University accelerated track students, co-imagining the elements of the dock structure.

The nomadic themes and project’s name reference stallings great-grandfather of the same name. P.M. Barefoot was a small-time gardener raised in North Carolina near the Lumbee River, a people of the Lumbee Tribe, who migrated South and helped raise the artist’s momma and aunts. So Barefoot Island came out of a need to continue connecting with and relying upon our communities’ waterways and public land in order to better care for it, and by proximity, for each other.