Somewhere in rural northern Pennsylvania, fashion designer and artist J. Morgan Puett has been steadily building a home and creating an eccentric future that is lost in the past of Thoreau cabins, Amish and Depression-era garments, Georgian clay floors, curtains dipped in beeswax, rusted metal screens, and rocking chairs. Mildred’s Lane, as the 46-acre property is called, is “an ongoing experiment in art, design and aestheticized living, an artist colony conceived in the communal spirit of 20th-century institutions like Roycroft and Black Mountain College.”
Over the last ten years, visiting artists and friends have come to collaborate with Puett on books, performances, and landscape installations. The latter category includes a garden and cemetery recording the names of distinguished American naturalists, designed by Puett and her former partner Mark Dion (Season 4), with whom she and two other friends originally purchased the property in 1997. Over this time, Dion and Puett have also been working on the main house, a three-level barn with all the fixins’ of “romantic decay” built from scratch over the foundations of an old chicken coop.
Starting this month, Mildred’s Lane (named after Mildred Miller, the last owner who passed away in 1986) begins its new phase as an “interdisciplinary art complex,” offering up to 16 residencies where students can live and work with other visiting artists. For the first session, Dion will collaborate with the students on something called “Mildred Archeology,” with the aim of using artworks, photographs, videos, and journals made at the compound over the last ten years along with old letters, photographs, and ephemera found in the original farmhouse, which had gone untouched between 1987 and 1997. From this they will begin creating the Mildred’s Lane Historical Society and Museum.