Upon Viewing the Forces of Nature Exhibition, Halsey Gallery, Charleston, SC October 2006
A white wall illuminates a centered slice of tree. Concentric rings coil out to infinite ranges; warping, with each, age and might. The heavy brown and knotted bark deepens to story. Thread winds freely, tracing the solid rings – it spirals out like the spider’s web, mapping the meat of the tree’s life. In dark bindings, a book with gaping holes of measured circles waits. The black print, missing in chunks, fades into the design. The knowledge peels away – layered. The words, their pressed meaning, hold no more truth for the tree. There is a projected picture, a c-sectioned tree, one with red marker, stepping stones of eroded plaster – white squares – more thread. My mind is like the thread. It twists delicate in a breeze but holds tight to the needle’s eye, driving into the fibers, griping and hemming – Or like sand, sifting & sinking as it conforms itself to the print. The weight of my body rolls heel to toe as I walk among these thoughts, each successive ring between my teeth, eating away at the bone.
The blog destroyed my formatting, but I think it’s actually easier to read this way. To expand on the thoughts of my last post, I felt I should include an example of a poem that I wrote about an art exhibition I found to be particularly compelling and insightful. This poem and the photograph pictured above (which is one of mine) have been instrumental in creating Forest and Fin and also inspired my wood panel painting series back in 2009. I think it gets to the heart of what I mentioned in my last post: the interaction of imagery included in this particular art exhibition paired with descriptive language generated a new idea or association (the thread being like my mind or me chewing on my thoughts as I try to get to the heart of my ideas) that I found inspirational. I found the photos pictured below of the actual exhibition on Flickr here to give you a little context. The Halsey Gallery has this to say about the exhibition: This unique exhibition was a grand collaboration between seven institutions in North and South Carolina and ten contemporary Japanese artists. The artists lived in the Carolinas for six-week residencies, creating work using natural materials or processes and were installed at their host institutions. You can read more here.
These three photographs from their Flickr gallery show some of the specific detail that I mention in my poem below:
*These three photographs are from the “Force of Nature: The Exhibition” Flickr group.
Nothing like a clean studio, freshly painted bare walls, and an empty canvas to release a burst of creative energy. I’ve been spending about six days a week in my new studio. Even though I feel like I am behind on everything, I am definitely getting a great deal accomplished in my new space and it feels wonderful to be painting on canvas again. I am like a kid at Christmas staring at a freshly stretched canvas; the possibilities are endless and exciting. I used my first painting to stretch my hand-eye coordination and put my skills to the test. I chose to work from a photograph that I took a few months ago at the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw, SC. A good friend of mine volunteers out there every weekend and took me inside some of the cages to get a closer look at the occupants. This baby owl is imprinted, meaning she is familiar with humans and cannot be released into the wild. She is a Savigny’s Eagle Owl (Bubo Ascalaphus), and I thought her fluffiness would be a great challenge for me. I am not quite finished with her (and this is an early photograph of the work), but sometimes it is good to let a painting sit for while and see what it tells you.
Another reason to let this painting sit a while is because I’ve been feeling a great need to use my work as a vehicle for expression, but I haven’t found my own personal style quite yet, at least not in regards to my works on canvas, and I am not even sure of what I want to say. Up to now, I’ve been working straight from photographs with little deviation, and while it is a completely acceptable way to work, I don’t think that it is particularly insightful or enlightening for me. I have always been drawn to works with elements of abstract or surrealists qualities, as long as there is some recognizable context for the work. I think this urge springs from my creative writing background: I have always loved to write poetry and feel that the process allows me to come to realizations that are both enriching and enlightening. Modern poetry is particularly appealing because it has become acceptable to combine words, ideas, and concepts that are seemingly different, but doing so in such a way that the contrast falls away and a new meaning is formed by subconscious associations within our brain. This new understanding may not even be explainable within the context of language. The best analogy that comes to mind is foreign language translations. We all know that there are phrases in all languages that do not translate well, but sometimes they can be conveyed when combined with a gesture or by associating several related phrases.
When I am writing a poem, I never know where it will take me or what phrase will bring me enlightenment; it is enough to know that, when I find it, I will know. This is what I hope to achieve through art. I want it to bring me closer to these unexpected realizations that are completely unpredictable. After discussing this concept at length with Brian, we both decided that it might be a good exercise for me to write some poetry about my new paintings as I create them, then perhaps I will find the enlightenment that I am looking for. It will also give me a context for my work and hopefully even more direction. Additionally, if I discover something worth sharing, I could consider including it in the actual piece in such a way that it alters the work in a positive manner, giving the viewer some idea of what I am thinking. We discussed screen-printing a phrase, line, or even several lines of poetry onto some of my future paintings or allowing myself a little more freedom with my imagery — a la my sketchbook. In my sketchbook, I often overlap images and draw seemingly unrelated subjects on the same page. In this way I am able to create new associations as I do within my poetry. Perhaps it is time to carry these experiments over to my larger paintings and see what happens.
Also, expect to see more birds! I am on a bird kick, because I have some great photos to work from (from both the Bahamas and from my visit to the Center for Birds of Prey)!