The Cave Paintings of Rupert, Vermont

Man has been creating “art” long before the arrival of museums and galleries. Primitive art had a spiritual purpose rather than an intellectual or a commercial agenda and the best examples of this are the 20,000-year-old cave paintings in Lascaux, France which carry an ancient energy and a symbolism that still resonates in today’s computer-driven world.

So what does this have to do with a cave in Vermont? They now have their own version of Lascaux:

Rupert Cave Painting at Consider Bardwell
OK, so this is a bit more contemporary – by about 19,999 years, painted by Colorado artist Julia Bollinger. And the Rupert Cave is actually a “cheese cave” in a barn at Consider Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet, Vermont, where goat cheese is produced and stored. But the point here isn’t about age or location – it’s about intention.

Primitive artists were often vital members of their community. They provided a symbolism that would help promote fertility, insure a good harvest, give thanks for a successful hunt. They were part of everyday survival – the “artwork” they created had deep meaning and was actively used rather than simply admired.

Back to the Rupert Cave in Vermont.

The “cave” is surrounded by fields where the farm goats quietly graze. Their milk makes the cheese that keeps the farm in business. Julia Bollinger worked at the farm for a period of time, where she milked, fed, and cared for around a hundred goats daily. She knew these goats and understood the importance of each and every one of them for ensuring the farm’s success. I asked her to tell me more about the inspiration behind the painting.

Rupert Cave Painting (detail) at Consider Bardwell
“I worked on Consider Bardwell Farm for about 6 months in 2009-2010 as a goat milker and caretaker, where I began to realize all of the work that goes into producing food — on both the farmer’s and the animal’s behalf,” Bollinger said. “This new understanding also made me admire and value the goats in a way I wouldn’t have been able to grasp before working with them. Twice a day they give their milk, and their bodies function their entire lives for this purpose. In today’s culture, we are so removed from the animals we depend on for food — it is easy to take meat and dairy for granted when one hasn’t seen or participated in the process.”

“Ancient humans did not have this separation from their food and daily lives. The Lascaux drawings are a beautiful demonstration of their congruent existence. In fact, I believe they represent that culture’s utmost respect for the animals they hunted and relied on for survival; the drawings seem to be sacred in that respect.”

“In discussing the mural project with Rust Glover, one of the owners of Consider Bardwell Farm, we decided we wanted to convey this reverence and appreciation for the goats, so we looked to the Lascaux drawings for inspiration. Hopefully some of these concepts come across to the viewer in the mural!”

Rupert Cave Painting (detail2) at Consider Bardwell
Consider Bardwell Farm is located on Route 153 in West Pawlet, Vermont. The farm produces award-winning goat’s milk and cow’s milk cheeses, available for purchase in area stores and farmers’ markets and directly from the farm. The “Rupert Cave Painting” may be viewed upon request. Visit Consider Bardwell Farm.

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