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…