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.”