Kate Borcherding Stacks Stones for Memory Diaries Art Project

Kate Borcherding recently created this stone cairn at Door Bluff Headlands County Park near Ellison Bay. Photo by Sally Slattery.

Kate Borcherding sits on a gray stone, similar to the stones she’s been moving and stacking for the past few weeks along the shore of Door Bluff Headlands County Park near Ellison Bay. She munches on almonds with Burt Guthrie, a Dallas, Texas-based cinematographer. Anthony Knape, a photographer and president of Information Regeneration – also based in Dallas, Texas – checks on the expected times of the moon’s rise and set. They survey her work: a tall cairn stands erect in the calm blue water, a ring of stacked rocks juts from the shore, and a cleared ‘amphitheater’ awaits an audience.

“When I came down here I had lots of sketches and ideas,” says Borcherding, an art professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. “But then you quickly realize you can impose or you can take what’s here and run with it. So right now I’m chasing the project, rather than imposing.”

The project, funded by a Kickstarter campaign, entails a thirty-day public art installation using nothing but the natural elements, taking photographs, creating time lapses. The end result will then be used to promote Borcherding’s Memory Diaries Art Project – affordable archival digital storage for individuals.

“It’s kind of like scrapbooking,” explains Borcherding. “You keep all your [digital] images and pass it on to whoever you want.” She hopes to sell 100 years worth of digital storage for 100 dollars, which will then be passed on to the next generation.

In an effort to showcase the project, the art installation will serve as “an example,” says Borcherding. “It will show me creating these sculptures, but makes an interesting statement. Midway through the project sculptures got knocked down by wind – so here today, gone tomorrow.”

The resulting images and footage will also be used to create a little documentary about creativity. “There is a bigger message that could go into education or business – how you figure out ideas,” explains Borcherding.

But for now, she builds, she stacks, she moves rocks, “slowly,” she laughs, “one at a time.” The Madison-native who has vacationed to Door County since she was a child grew up building rock cairns; that experience combined with moving large lithographs for her printmaking classes has helped the artist understand weight and balance. “I wonder how much tonnage I’ve moved,” she smiles.

(Left to right) Burt Guthrie checks his equipment while Kate Borcherding discusses plans for her next sculpture with Anthony Knape. Photo by Sally Slattery.

With waders on, Borcherding creates many of her tall sculptures in the water. “They can stand on their own like a piece of art in the water, like it’s matted and framed,” she says.

She also sees the sculptures as useful tools for measuring. “It’s interesting to see how the sculptures interact with the water and sky. You can watch the tide as it goes up and down and then track things through the holes – the sun or the stars.”

The marrying of natural elements with man-made organization also fascinates the artist. “As you change the edge to man-made and then let it go back to nature, it creates these natural punctuation marks or pauses. It’s interesting to see how far you have to go to create contrast.”

Many park visitors’ are curious about the sculptures and take time to speak with Borcherding and interact with the pieces. “People instinctively build here,” she says. “Kids will come up and want to put a rock on what I’m building. It provokes conversation. People stop and look.”

To learn more about Kate Borcherding, visit or

Borcherding will be stacking stones through the first week of July, stop by Door Bluff Headlands County Park near Ellison Bay to take a look or visit with the artist.