When George Rue started hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail six summers ago at age 18, he carried a sketchpad, intending to use it as both diary and camera. But when he brought the weathered notebook back to New York’s School of Visual Arts—full of dirty faces and forgotten detours—his professors urged him to return to the trail.
Now pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at the New York Academy of Art, the 24-year-old from Nashville took their advice, continuing to section-hike and sketch over the past four summers. Rue has expanded the project into a mixed-media art installation, using his sketches as inspiration for sculptures, prints, and woodcuts he made in his New York studio. And though he considers it a work-in-progress, Rue started showing Appalachian Travelogue around the city, dragging along his dirty boots and backpack. Parts of the project have been shown at Sotheby’s art gallery in New York and other galleries as far away as Rome, in addition to having a solo show in New York City’s VCS Gallery.
“What I’m trying to do is capture the culture and landscape of the trail by drawing from life,” says Rue, who finished the trail in Maine last summer but has started to section-hike it in reverse. “I hope that it transcends its subject matter to become more about how we relate to nature in contemporary life.”
Photo: Appalachian Travelogue, Thesis Installation, Mixed Media
This piece was the first iteration of Appalachian Travelogue. Rue created it as his undergraduate thesis installation in 2014, focusing mostly on sections of the trail closest to his home in Tennessee. Since then, he’s added sketches from the northern end, especially Maine and New Hampshire, his favorite states to hike. “I wanted to create something that represents every section of the entire trail,” he says. “So that, as you moved through it, it would almost be like traveling from Georgia to Maine.”