January 3, 2015
January 3, 2015
October 1, 2014
I’m very excited to announce the latest exhibit Branching Out: Trees As Art in the Art & Nature Center at the Peabody Essex Museum is exhibiting a photograph of Birch Bark Series (Water Play III) an environmental installation from my residency in the White Mountain National Forest! This piece is from a series I created with found birch bark and the photograph is of the circular portals strung together playing in the water before they were hung as a meditative contemplation, from a fallen branch over the Wild River. Please refer to my posts I wrote during my residency to learn more about this process.
Artists in the exhibit use trees as a means to making art such as sculptures, photographs and even music. I highly recommend listening to Bartholomaus Traubeck who plays cross sections of trees like records resulting in eerily melodic unstructured instrumentals. Below is a photo of sound artist Diego Stocco recording a bonsai! The exhibit runs until Sept. 2015, so you have no excuse but to get there!!
July 25, 2014
With summer in full-swing an Eco-Art Adventure was a perfect compliment and escape to the mid-week Boston bustle and heat. I gladly answered the call to get out on the water and create. It was a perfect combination partnering with Discovery Adventures in Lanesville to provide the kayaks and gear, mother nature to provide the materials and an adventurous family to jump on in. Stocked with sunscreen, sketchbooks and snorkels the paddle to Folly Cove, with the wind at our backs, proved ideal. An environmental art challenge resulted in prime opportunity for family collaboration and ocean front real estate, so name your price… and get there quick!
Starting her watercolor on paper, 4yr old Simone completed it on herself. Already a master of the pencil, 11yr old Colin used the inspiration of his paddle to draw a kayaker in action, while his 9yr old brother Ian & Uncle Dan tried to engineer a waterfall by averting the freshwater stream flowing into the ocean. The cold water of Folly Cove refreshed us all…if not only to induce seaweed fights. Nature truly makes the best art materials, stimulus for play, creativity and imagination. However the biggest challenge was yet to come – the paddle back to Lanes Cove. The wind had picked up to a steady 10-12 knots with gusts and as a double measure the tide was against us. My hardy crew pushed on through, working our arms, core and backs (whose sore today?!)… while I tied the brave Colin to my rear to keep his bow pointing straight and determination alive through teamwork. I’m only hoping his frustration will turn into a glorious sea story he’ll tell (or draw for) his friends about at school this year in land-locked Texas. Turning at the pirate flag into the calm waters of Lane’s Cove was a treat… and after my group went onward to capture the rest of the gorgeous day, I enjoyed the tranquility (minus the rumbling of fishing boat engines) with a thankful swim and a jump off the 20ft wall…just to prove I’ve still got it in me.
To book an Eco-Art Adventure go to www.discoadventures.com or call 978.283.3320
June 30, 2014
Do you have the patience to watch and observe a periwinkle leave its trail in the sand? They move in-between tides, cluster together in communities and create abstract designs that are walked on and washed away. But have you actually seen them move, seen the formation of periwinkle parties during the slow passage of time the ocean’s edge grows?
How do we take these small intangible motions and movements to create larger theories, ways to live by, or will they continue to be unseen without an observant – well in truth a more patient eye. Perhaps the only lens we can see the movement through is the camera, setting up a tripod and walking away… like a watched pot our need for instant gratification & constant expectation overwhelms us. Think about our own trails we leave behind. Since we can’t see or feel the intangible wake of our movements is there really nothing there? Imagine your day, your week, and then imagine if your feet were constantly covered in wet paint, your tire wheels burning marks in the asphalt, your gestures leaving colorful fibers floating with each heart flutter. What would your imprint’s visual trail be?
Daniel Ranalli snail drawings on exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum force a controlled choreography between the periwinkles and their destination asking us to question whether we create our own dance everyday or embrace the chance path that may lead us in a different direction with our brilliant orange strings following us.
March 16, 2014
2014 arrived as I danced barefoot on a grassy field at the edge of the Tasman Sea, stars shining bright and the bonfire even brighter. Warmth penetrated my soul from generous people, the sound waves of ambient music and the bottle of bubbly in my hand. Falling asleep as the sun came up and the rain poured down… awaking to sun and perfect stretches of cotton candy clouds I knew it was going to be a good year. Energized by the gifts of nature and deep-hearted people, my path on that first day of the new year took me to the beach. Called me to the ocean, the large stretch of sand, the shells, driftwood and oyster catchers…to collect and create.
Joined by my accomplice, Stephan, we scoured the beach in our foggy, somewhat slaphappy state of mind, settling our sights on the abundance of triangle shells. White. Triangular. Mollusks. Hunting & gathering.
The wet, dark sand proved a perfect background to compliment the stark, pure whiteness of the shell… and what is creating on the beach without the race against the tide? Intuitively moving the shells to observe their interactions, the way they overlayed and intersected, I began my explorations. Circular forms seem to exist within me and desire to emerge. Triangles creating circles. At the start of a new year I began without expectations and avoided symmetry, a perfect visual solution that is pleasing, yet so predictable. I wanted to leave it open for chance, for play, for new perspectives.
As Stephan dozed on the warm dry sand and left me to my inner contemplations I looked to the horizon and to my surprise saw a massive stormy front moving in. So not the tide but a wall of rain and wind would force me to quicken my pace and challenge the typical West Coast weather. I called to my ‘assistant’, who came ambling down and fearlessly aided me in placement, photography and critique. As the first rain drops started to splatter on our barely water-resistant jumpers and thunder boomed in the distance we added the final element, flat stones as markers to hold the open spaces between the shells, to honor the emptiness and let it be.
Running, running as the booms drew nearer to wipe out the blue sky, we laughed and panted. Then as fast as the front approached, its path changed and took a sharp turn to the left, towards magnetic Mt. Stormy. Sheepishly celebrating our good luck we slackened our pace and took in the sun, once again the natural world reminding us of the gift it is and that change is inevitable… to allow room for free and open spaces to invite unexpected pathways to emerge.
Within perhaps 10 minutes of our arrival home a resounding, awe-inspiring hail storm fell upon the tin roofs of Karamea. Stephan and I counted our blessings and then he threw an early summer snowball just for fun.
December 6, 2013
Graphite stems from the Greek word graphien which means to write/draw. Luckily raw graphite of varying densities is still being compressed with clay into wooden casings. Of course, you say. Pencils. Yes a harmless #2 that you used in grade school to fill in (completely, mind you!) those intimidating empty bubbles for the standardized test, or as you reached maturity for mayoral ballots in your former gymnasium that smelled mildly of powdered mashed potatoes from school lunch.
Yes boring. I know, nothing very memorable about those dull moments, except the perfect sharpness the electric pencil sharpener gave that #2. But wait! Fellow artists where are you!? How did it happen? When did I transition from the schoolgirl using pencils to hold my hair up to the obsessive collector and miner of this raw material? Screw #2. I want 8B, 6B, 2B, HB, F, 2H, 4H, 7H and the rest in between and I want it now!! Am I having a relapse into the world of Willy Wonka and geese laying golden eggs? These straight-edged wooden drawing utensils are now my geese, laying endless lines of varying darkness, waddling persistently while I scratch for hours on the surface of a beautifully soft piece of paper and honking fiercely as my arm convulses in stages of preliminary carpel tunnel syndrome.
Obsessed a little? Maybe. I don’t use the term junkie lightly, just look at my stash.
Oh and that’s not the worst of it. I am also a destroyer of these harmless purveyors of line-making. With reckless abandon I ruin their chances for survival by choosing a large flat area to shade – in my clutches the B’s may last half-way through a drawing, the H’s are luckier. Their layers are harder, mixed with more clay to protect the fragments of graphite being left behind, in turn saving them from expiring at an accelerated rate.
So I’ve been using pencils, graphite on woven paper as the ‘proper’ art terminology would have it. I could never have guessed at how satisfying ‘going back to the drawing board’ would be. I’ve been using them primarily for 2-D work for over two years and this simple tool keeps on surprising me. Here are a few of my sketches & final drawings with the stars of the show, you guessed it the Pencil (with multiple backstage changes):
While I wait in desperation to get my next fix I’ll leave you with a couple useless trivia facts… the typical pencil can draw a line 35 miles long… and did you know graphite is an electrical conductor? Next experiment coming up!
September 12, 2013
Listen, listen. “Sometimes it’s so hard to listen in the city” What was I listening for? My last week in the woods I spent listening. Listening with my heart, listening with my eyes and finally with my ears. I didn’t question as much why I was doing something but let the pull of creation, place and material drive me. I was learning to trust, let go and sit with a more confident and calm mind.
The first weekend met me head on with challenges. Primarily my work has always been 2-D so my ideas as a sculptor appear grandiose in my head yet never necessarily follow through in action, once materials, environment and technical skills are taken into account. I realize my visions are still very based in my 2-D experience so I think primarily in line rather than form. Essentially trying to ‘draw’ with the materials I choose. My first sculpture of the week was using pine boughs… I have never got so mad at an inanimate object, it was truly humbling. Navigating the process became unwieldy, they didn’t want to hang, stay connected or form in the way I wanted, I was held hostage to the limitations of the material. More than once I just wanted to tear down all my work, I felt like the student in my classes who eventually gets so frustrated when he can’t translate his ideas from his head to paper that it ends in crumpled, ripped, angry satisfaction. When I finally, finally positioned the boughs just right and no twig fastenings were slipping out of place – I then realized the light was horrible to capture a photograph… oh the defeat!
Luckily this didn’t set the tone for the whole week and my dedication to squeeze in every moment for art-making found me drawing at wee hours of the morning among fluttering moths; hiding under large branches while manipulating materials during rainstorms; re-visiting old sculptures and camping through a wet night at the Wild River; lugging my drawing board,and pencils with me out to every site near and far to catch the ‘perfect’ shadow; and not seeking out Internet service, even once!
The Wild River continues to capture my intrigue and appreciation. I had the luck of being the ONLY person camping their this week… that besides my new toothless friend, Maurice, the very self-important camp host. I arrived at the campground with a site in mind and upon entering saw three pine bough rings hanging from a large stump in the middle, it was a piece of my Regeneration sculpture. This immediately struck me with a sense of belonging and contentment. I was so thrilled someone had taken my work and placed it in another location with some nature collages of their own. This unexpected movement and change is what I hope for when I walk away from my pieces, that they continue to shift in ways that I cannot expect through natural or human influence. As I walked around the campground I noticed small nature assemblages gracing trunks and rocks…I was absolutely in my element and so inwardly happy. As I re-visited the sculptures I created in the weeks prior and experimented with color and line, the river kept me company like constant comrade and observed me playing with a new material… burnt wood from my campfire … likened to charcoal. If I had more time I would have composed all the cream-colored rocks into black and white masterpieces.
Finally John Anderson & I exhibited our work at the Patricia Carega gallery, a beautiful barn gallery in Sandwich. John showcased his time-lapse work and photographs, while I my time-lapse drawings and environmental sculpture. It was rewarding and brought the residency full circle. An impressive crowd turned out and once again I felt the gratefulness of being accepted to really delve into my passion and have the opportunity to really feel like an artist. Thank you to the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire, White Mountain National Forest service, Meade Base and all the new friends (& woodland creatures) I met along the way. What I like the best is that I am welcomed back with open arms…”Once an artist in residence, always an artist in residence.”
At the close of this half of my journal is filled with rantings, questions, discoveries in art and appreciation for the natural world… here are some more quotes to leave you with:
Coming back from the city and feeling over-stimulated, thinking about how to re-enter the space and creative spirit , “ I wonder if that is what is ‘drawing’ me to do the time-lapse drawings. To capture moments of stillness in the constant movement? To showcase the moments of change within the limitations of our environment… how even when we are still, we are moving. Is this what a lot of artists try to do? Capture a beautiful moment in time – the light, a landscape, a sound, a color? It bridges to our hearts, it bridges to our senses. It embodies life itself”
“I did another hanging piece. For all I know it could be 6 o’clock and I’ve been here since 10am. The sky is finally blue, my feet are completely pruned, dirt embedded beneath my fingernails. Weaving tear drops together to accompany a small waterfall on its journey to greater Falls.”
After leading a program with adults that combined hiking with environmental art on the Greeley Ponds trail, “The hike directly informed the art and thinking of things such as balance, we had to use our own balance many a time – color, various shades of green, leaves turning in a range of colors – brilliant crisscrossing roots that made what seemed like a random interstate of connections, yet resembled basket weaving… it made me think of randomness and how even though the roots appear totally random they have a very controlled and intentional purpose, found a place and its support system. It is so difficult to actually be successfully ‘random’ and ‘spontaneous’ in art.”
“Trusting in the process, such a life lesson. Creating, making, sculpting and drawing, we all jump in not knowing, a little fearful but with trust that something will work out. That something might be complete failure, that something might be accidental discovery of a new technique or idea, that something may be surprising success! The underlying value is trust, because we are essentially trusting ourselves and trusting the universe to provide whatever answers/questions/thoughts may be presented in the moment. Life in itself is a journey – it’s a process and if we question it or live in fear of making next steps all the time we will find ourselves doubting our purpose…. Some will gently brush on the paint with a fine sable brush, while others will throw, splatter and mix it with sand to see the unexpected effects. There is a level of risk one takes in pushing the boundaries- most of the time there is failure… but when there is success the fruit is sweeter and worthwhile.”
“Creating art in nature is goddamn frustrating – I didn’t realize how much until this residency. Working within the limitations of what nature has provided – trying to sculpt with finicky, stubborn, breakable, prickly, unsymmetrical, slippery and unpredictable materials in an environment where you are reliant on the sun, rain, clouds, wind or calm is tough… mastery of patience!”
“looking at the past are we able to see what the future holds in these landforms. Crouching, bending, peering over the river balanced precariously on the rock, rubbing, scraping the wood against stone – leaving a mark – fingertips gray – now burnt wood has seeped into my grooves, my crevices, and won’t wash out the lines of my existence. What can these say about me, my past & future?”
August 27, 2013
A week in the Wild River Wilderness barely gives one enough time to take in the immensity of what the setting has to offer. Within an hour of claiming my site, pinioning my tent to the dusty ground and learning what it means to be ‘bear aware’, I was on the Wild River Trail headed upstream, tools in hand – mind in motion. I didn’t stop until five days later, time flowing as fast as the rushing river around me.
During my stay in the area I became so immersed and driven in my mission to create that taking a bathroom break, let alone a lunch break seemed futile. I barely wrote in my journal as the thought process happened while I was walking, actively observing, experimenting, creating and constructing. My campsite turned into an outdoor studio with wood shavings, twisted pine boughs and drawings in the dirt. I continued to sculpt into the night under the guidance of my head torch, the full moon and a crackling campfire that I surprised myself by attending with intuitive skill. Ultimately blessed by the weather gods, blue skies, warm temperatures and dry air persisted throughout the week. Not even a drop of dew graced the screens of my tent in the morning glow.
Each idea led to another, each movement and choice influenced in the culmination of my work – there was enough inspiration for an entire summer. In the course of my collections and understandings I meticulously sectioned birch bark from decaying logs into perfect rings- watching them dance and cast obscure, luminous shadows in the water; traced them on paper; used clothes pins to experiment with tension and balance; and strung them together with biodegradable twine in a gradient of sizes to create a kinetic mobile. I manipulated supple pine tree boughs from fallen trees into ellipses twisted upon themselves, and used the fine roots from those same trees as delicate string to lash the shapes together for extra support. Over the course of the week I produced two site-specific installations and collaborated with photographer John Anderson, the other WMNF artist-in-residence, on two time-lapse pieces (having quite the fun) highlighting my creative process.
One area of the river trail beckoned to me. A 20 min hike up river there was a massive log and brush debris pile-up, forming the shape of a horseshoe in what now is a little cove off the river flow. It overwhelmed me. The U configuration of the debris implied an audience at an outdoor theater. The actual scale of the devastation overpowered and engulfed me. I sprang from rock to rock and attempted to climb some of the larger felled trees only to be sabotaged by blockading branches or unsupported layers of brush. The sense of place had changed so much and so drastically that to process and respond to it like I wanted caused major anxiety. It deserved a performance. I single-handedly could not compete with this backdrop.
Eventually this place did become a site of one of my installations. I kept being called back there to contemplate the shifted and reshaped landscape along the ever-flowing beautiful river that actually was the culprit in all this damage. The environment became less overwhelming with time and I could process the scope of it on a much subtler level. Therefore my kinetic linear hanging, small in comparison to the scenery added a calm and organized effect among the chaos.
In keeping with the past blog entries here are a few segments from the journal entries I did make reflecting the creative process:
“I have circles – birch circles using the natural form of the bark – decayed wood removed from inside… now to configure them in a way that reflects an organic form? A pattern in nature? I start to understand the need of collaboration in this work. I’m far from any ranger station, no phone service, let alone the internet. I’m going to have to trust my intuitive nature on this one”
“I still feel pressed for time – yet staring down at the rushing river today in the full sun I once again feel so honored, lucky, in love with my life – what an opportunity this has been for me to push the boundaries of my art-making and delve into deeper consciousness – let the process take over. I am energized by it – although still very uncomfortable of the unknowing, what may happen and I think that comes from the expectation to produce something & prove to myself I can do this”
“Finally, Finally I’m going to bed feeling a little accomplished. Two birch bark mobiles (?) are on there way to completion after much sawing, cutting, washing, measuring, perfecting each ring with the tools I have”
“At the edge of it (the debris pile-up) there is a fallen birch tree hanging over the water. I was sitting, wrapping pine branches into circles, watching this tree, observing the way the light reflecting off the water created shadows on its underside, noticing the backdrop of wooded debris, the sounds of rushing water and trilling dragonflies. I think the hanging birch rings may just brush the water…I was so pleasantly surprised when after stringing them together each ring had a life of its own and spun in different directions!… the spot I hope it goes serves genuinely for contemplation – the beauty, the destruction, the constant flow of nature and this bit of whirling birch – circular passageways into the minds eye”
“I’m sitting here on the Wild River with my hanging birch bark sculptures – one is out of the water and swinging slighty back and forth – the circles turning ever so timidly, the reflections in the water are gorgeous, exactly what I hoped for… I like how you can see through each ring, like little portals – separating ones view into circular forms – closing one eye, what does that circle capture – a little window into another existence? If I took a separate photo of each circle and the view through it would it tell the entire story? Or break it into little pieces – just big enough for our human mind to process – twirling away just as we were about to grasp it – understand the essence….Clouds are coming in and a cool breeze just picked up. Time to head back to camp”
Back in the city now, just worked a full day – re-acclimating has been a little hard although I know the experience lives in me and is not over yet. I will be northerly bound for my third week this coming weekend! It cannot come soon enough…
August 18, 2013
I can’t believe I’ve been here officially an entire week – it has gone by so fast, yet held so much within it. Some may think I’m taking this as a vacation, a reprieve from the challenges of everyday existence, a time to relax and paint pretty pictures. HELL’s NO! The mind-twisting, thought-provoking, frustrating, exhilarating world of being an artist is exhausting…yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My sentiments from close to midnight on Day 5, as my arm was cramping and my fingers tingling from drawing so hard, “1. I love the White Mountain Nat’l Forest 2. My inner artist is awakening and taking full flight… how can I make this a reality ALL the time … (any suggestions? please avoid marry rich & be reincarnated as a trust fund baby). no really, going back to work is going to be real hard – this is my calling and always has been…”
This will be my last post for a while as I head out north again tomorrow with my (new!) tent & camping supplies. I’m giving it a go to live off the land for the better part of the week and be completely immersed in the raw environment at Wild River. My hope is that it will invigorate the creative process to be free from distraction and within walking from the areas I want to create in and with. I’m ready to land.
A creative recap from the past few days – highlights from my journal entries:
Day 4: Hard Hats & Safety Vests
“We trudged over fresh dumped sand, skirted some heavy machinery and stood at the edge of a gorgeous vista overlooking the large smooth cream-colored rocks that make up most of the Forests fresh water rivers. The vista we were standing over was cordoned off with a bright orange plastic fence to keep people from slipping over the eroded edge to a 40ft plunge below.
Hurricane Irene. Remember her? 2+ years ago? The river waters rose at least 30ft causing immense damage and flash flooding. They are in the process of rerouting this trail about 15 feet to the left so it will possibly last for another 40yrs until the next big storm or gravity takes its course. Piles upon piles of dried, brush, logs and debris covers the shorelines. I will quote Tom (the district manager) on this, ‘Nature always wins.’ My sentiments exactly.”
Day 5: Reconnaissance – Wild River & 19-Mile
“As soon as I pulled down the 5.5 mile dirt road and heard the rushing river next to me, I knew it. Upon observing from my car I felt it. I was like a bee to pollen. Downed trees, brush, flowing water, those creamy stones. All the elements – here.
My heart is beating faster, I’m a bit frantic – so much to take in. It’s absolutely the PERFECT day, light puffy clouds, blue sky, slow breeze, dozens of dragonflies soaring to and fro overhead. Once again super intrigued by the fallen trees, uprooted, still thriving in the fresh water….green leaves, boulders stuck among the roots. Ideas that pop into my head are about turning the roots upside down, adding more egg-like rocks to the nest, creating a habitat.
A dragonfly is perching on my hat as I am writing! I see the shadow on my page (and traced it)… I’ll take that as a good omen.” My artistic wings have begun opening.
Day 6: Giving it my all at 19-Mile
Finally a full day of creating outside – between programs, getting acquainted and discovering the forest I’ve just begun feeling liberated to begin making art. Purchasing more tools in the morning I was fully equipped with clippers, fold-able saw, bucket, gloves and trowel.
“Ok I just spend over an hour bending branches and balancing limbs on a fallen tree with no great outcome – a little frustrating. However it did make me really contemplate balance, push and pull and how the tension of the branches is all you need to keep them together but an any moment they could SNAP! And that delicate balance is gone… reminds me of the quote about balance and imbalance by Peter London, ‘Loving one without embracing the other [balance & imbalance] defeats the creative and even the artistic potentialities that each possesses; separately and, even more so in conjunction we flee from the confusions of imbalance, strive after perfect and permanent balance. Either one sought after or held on to too hard and long compromises the creative process as it would compromise if not destroy any process, especially one that evolves – that is goes from simple to complex, fixed to spontaneous, reflexive to self-reflective behaviors.’ (Drawing Closer to Nature, p. 220)
“Frustration again – loss of inspiration – bored with my idea. My initial thought goes to my lack of skill in handling material or knowing what to do with material – I come back to the same ideas such as stacking, balancing, creating representational lines and shapes. I’m bored with that, I’m here to push myself farther not just do what I’m comfortable with. I almost walked away – gave up – but I laid back on the trunk for a few letting my thoughts flow away with the river. I kept going, adding, removing – taking away is what made me realize that perhaps the aesthetic I am going for is simplicity. Not trying to cram all these rocks together to make something but find the perfect 3 rocks and align them in such away that it is beautiful. One angle of my sculpture all you can see is a simple line of rocks following the womanly curve of the tree and disappearing. It’s my favorite vantage point – I scoff at myself- oh anyone can do that, yet the choices I make, the rocks I choose and the way I capture the image is mine only to share with the world in the way that my eye and heart decide.
Today’s experiences in the field have awakened and brought awareness to my new sense of aesthetic. I’m going to heed that and respect that more complex and/or bigger is not better. What is environmental art anyway but our interpretations, respect and homage to the world around us?”
Day 7: Crawford Notch
“Pretty heavenly sitting out on the lawn in front of the bunkhouse in the bright 5 o’clock sun, feeling the weariness of the day sink in my body – looking around at the softly rolling mountains, lush with coniferous trees and a few bright yellow/green deciduous peering through. The weariness of the day began with early a.m. hikers packing their gear under the guidance of head torches… I rolled out of bed at 6:30am and was the lone snoozer in the bunkhouse. These people are serious! In any case it inspired me to catch the morning shadows for some time-lapse drawings as the sun gingerly rose over the mountains to the East.
I spent the entire morning moving asphalt from a caved in portion of an abandoned road, so have new-found respect for masons and stone-layers. Nature had taken its course by overruling human confines of pavement and I decided it was the perfect place to continue that shift with my own two hands. I threw the thick, crumbling gray chunks aside to clear out the sink hole – I reflected on the history of the Forest and the crews and loggers who constructed railway lines, cleared trails and built settlements by hand and simple machinery. Time and dedication.
The destruction of one environment (forest) leading the eventual cyclic destruction of another (infrastructure). My choice was to re-lay pieces of the asphalt in a way that encourages a different use that in itself will be temporary…by paying homage to ‘what is’ – the collaboration of built and natural, perhaps it will shift the perspective of an unsuspecting viewer or bridge an interdependence of the two worlds so the ‘ugly’ pavement morphs into something visually pleasing or at least compelling for a moment in time.”
Day 8: A Morning of Creating
“Re-visiting my unfinished site-specific work from yesterday I wasn’t impressed, yet I wasn’t completely discouraged. I held strong and dug in…with my trusty trowel. The quiet of the morning lent itself to a calm, steadiness in my mind and creating. I held little judgement of myself and let the unwieldy shapes of the asphalt chunks, sand and stones guide my hands. I let go of wanting and moved tenderly in the rocky pit, pausing to help a sentient frog get to his destination.
The finishing touch of adding the small bright yellow leaves that had been falling on me all morning to the shards of asphalt was my favorite. The element of color and the reference to the familiar yellow lines on pavement sealed the sculpture. It was also the essence of ephemeral as I could barely take a photo before a strong breeze arose blowing half of my carefully placed leaves on their merry way.
As I walked away I turned and saw to my surprise a big white truck making its way down the road. I didn’t know whether to run (it wasn’t me!) or stay and watch the complete destruction… or shift… of my days work. With a smile I stayed – curious how this would pan out. The trucked never descended fully but backed out and my sculpture still lives as is, for another hour, day or week to remind those that witness it of the magical things that take place when you’re not looking.”
August 13, 2013
I’m predicting I may be able to update this blog about every 3-4 days while I’m ‘in residence’. At Meade Base, where I am staying, there is no phone service beyond text messaging, no internet, but two very friendly men to show me the in’s and out’s of the Base… such as where to put compost and find the wine key. What else do I really need?!
My room consists of an air mattress, side table, desk and sheet upon the floor to put my clothes. I’ve clamped utility lights to the ceiling, unrolled my paper and stacked my books. I’m ready to create, or so I think I am, I want to be – is this where the fear starts to creep in and question the worthiness of such a creative endeavor…can I really live up to the expectations of this artist residency?!
I’ve been keeping a daily journal of ideas, feelings and observations. I won’t share the entire manifesto with you but will try to pick a few choice paragraphs that highlight some of the inquisitive or creative processes of the day.
Day 1: Beede Falls
“Came upon two fallen birch trees, the bark is starting to peel off of them in rings forming an unstructured pattern. One of the birch trees has a dirt ‘path’ underneath it, I’m wondering if it was caused by the force of the tree when it fell or by the little bits continually falling off as its been laying there… I could continue the process of ‘shedding’ of rings, enabling a more structured pattern, then use the bark left over to weave or link the two trees together… Just pulled off a little piece and a spider jumped out. By forcing the bark off earlier than nature intended will I interrupt the natural process – destroy a habitat for insects and other creatures – or can I create weavings and intricate folds from the bark that I then somehow ‘re-wrap’ around this fallen birch tree?”
Day 2: Meeting and Presentation at Headquarters
I awoke this day feeling very overwhelmed, my heart pounding and tense, my thoughts falling into self-doubt. So much to do & discover in such little time! The Forest is huge, how can I focus in and actually be successful?
“Am I worthy of this roll – have I been all talk up until now and then to act upon creation is terrifying? Yet I will ask who are the critical eyes? The sky and trees that watch me create? The ants and spiders maneuvering over my pulsing body on a mission towards food and safety themselves. What eyes other than my own do I have to ‘prove’ myself too? Trust….The shifting of the clouds is so beautiful. Morphing into organic tufting shapes beyond the realm of human imagination…trust myself”
I met with Forest staff to go over maps and slowly absorb the immensity of the landscape I have been given to work with. Locations a two hour drive away are calling to me – trails and campgrounds with the names Wild River, 19-mile and Tunnelbrook. Some of these places were drastically affected and destroyed by Hurricane Irene and now I’m taking on the challenge of observing the change and responding to it with my work. A lot of questions about what destruction is and who defines that are arising. The unknown, the intuitive – I won’t know until I get there what will talk to me, what I might even fathom creating; which is why it is so scary… and so invigorating.
Day 3: Rainy Day – Mt. Israel
The last traces of my slight head cold gone in my sleep, I awoke to the feeling of fresh possibility. I had created a series of accordion books the night before to solve the problem of crushing or creasing my nice paper on extended hikes. The sound of wind rushing through trees was a wonderful melody even if it was accompanied by overcast skies.
“As I was finishing breakfast I saw the first steady shower pour down….no matter…gathering my rain gear. However it became clearly obvious that the rain was not going to let up. Too excited to get out in the woods than admit my defeat, I stepped my hiking boots and popped my head through my newly purchased raingear…Walmart sizes, so I resembled a saggy sumo wrestler… and joyfully was on my way to forage.
Heading up the Mt. Israel trail, directly behind Meade Base, the first thing that continues to strike me is the fallen birch trees – white gems littering the forest floor, bark delicately peeling off like tattered old book pages curling with age. The slow performance of shedding its skin, each subtle movement invisible to the human eye. Untouched it is quite beautiful.
Dramatically fallen trees lure me off the trail. I free a teenage sapling from the binds of a downed tree with a feeling of heroic grace, but who am I to interfere with this process and what does it matter?
A humans response to a fallen tree is usually to find a chainsaw and make the tree into something ‘useful’ such as firewood or building materials. Are those harsh cuts and straight lines what we like to see, are conditioned to see? We continue the change of the fallen tree by wielding destructive mechanical power in our hands. If I go in and continue the change by working with the land around the tree, using the materials I find in the woods, how is this different than the woodsman with the chainsaw? Yes I’m more delicate, less permanent, contemplative. So is it the intention that makes our approaches so different? As an artist must my work always be aesthetically pleasing? We are all part of the natural cycle and a dead tree providing warmth for a family seems just as honorable as it decaying into the earth to make soil rich for other plants to grow.”
Is it possible that one fallen tree somewhere affects even in the smallest way our planet as a whole and the interdependence of all things?
“Sitting with my eyes closed in the middle of a fast running stream I try to be overwhelmed by my auditory sense. Let the running water fill my ears and chase the never-ending thoughts from my monkey mind… (eventually) the stream surrounds me, my thoughts rush down the mountain in the current, on my out breath. Big droplets of rain bounce off my head and pool in the crevices of my over-sized jacket”
Peek into Day 4!
Tomorrow I’m going out into Lincolnville woods, an area that is getting rebuilt from the ‘destruction’ of Hurricane Irene. I’ve been told that I must stop by headquarters to get a hard hat and safety vest… this sounds fun!!