Punkadoodle Studios

think beyond the canvas

A Virgin to the Forest: Residency Beginnings


Meade Base

Sunset on the way to base

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.

Rainy day photos

“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”

Foraging from Mt. Israel

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!!

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