Looking at an upside down nautical chart of Cape Ann I notice topographical lines shaped in oblong ovals, blue shades hugging the coast and various numbers tracking the depth of the harbor and edges of the Atlantic Ocean. The lines on the map dips and draws all the crevices the where the ocean has seeped into inlets and snaked its way up inland trails. My eyes shift to the close-up photographs I’ve taken of tree bark. I observe the resemblance they have to dramatic landscapes, messy mountain ranges and deep ocean trenches. This parallel has inspired me to create charts to navigate these expanses for the boats I am building based on trees, sites and natural objects.
Cork Tree boats are built from the stems of the cork tree. They have morphed from traditional deep hulled craft to more raft-like, Egyptian and Ethiopian reed boats. This accentuates the organic shape of the stems which emulates the incredibly complex and sculptural bark. It also gives the boats a stable way to navigate and be displayed as models in their habitat. Using the stems also speaks to time. Time is at play here because these stems are falling with the leaves in autumn giving me limited time to collect them and work with them while they are still supple. Their decaying fragrance is pervading my olfactory sense as I write. The shape and size of the boats is defined by the stems and is forcing me to work within limits of material, craft and knowledge. For these water vessels I am creating a nautical chart on the wall, responding to the charts I have been looking at and the topography of the cork tree. I plan to make a 3-D drawing using colored prints of the bark and other observations. I will situate the boats in their local waters and paint appropriate symbols and color. The installation will have the effect of a large-scale model of an unexpected ocean-scape.
The boat I constructed for the bear cages also feels a bit lost without a map. I have begun a digital map, an animation of time, using the lines I discovered there. My goal is to overlay lines depicting graffiti, shadows, cracks and creeping vines to document the present story into the future as they multiply and grow until almost no light can be seen between them. I am still wondering what this chart is going to be projected onto (the oars?), or from what perspective. A digital map usually moves around a central point, even though it is commonly the object or person that is actually moving. I’m wondering how to represent this movement with a static object in the realm of nonlinear time. I’m also questioning if this map can be linked with the cork tree boats and chart – if there is an overlap I’m not yet seeing.
The Vikings commonly sent off the deceased in the boat to take them on their next journey. Some of these boats were massive depending on the status of the dead. It had all the necessary objects and tools that might be needed, currency and sometimes even animals and food. This idea of using a boat for a symbolic journey is a reoccurring theme in my work and I want to continue to push this idea through these imaginative explorations of site, nature and material.