My Husband is, among the widest variety of handy a person can imagine, a luthier, crafting stringed instruments from wood with a story. He's often called to old buildings to salvage stairs and pews and pianos, or people will drop off random sections of trees, benches, anything with the possibility to become. Shortly after we were married, his friends called with a rather large stump that remained in their backyard. Armed with an "at-times" operational chainsaw, the Highlander (I'm not quite sure that Toyota was envisioning all of the uses that "Helga" has helped with when designing this vehicle), and the dogs, off we went to the Billings neighborhood. Much cutting, wedging, rolling, and leveraging ensued. Two cylindrical mammoths were *soon* loaded onto Helga, and my portion sat amongst the pups in the rig. The sheer mass of this tree was overwhelming.
Time passed, they rested in our yard, elevated from the ground in which they once grew.
A year later we hefted these fellows to our new home, but this time in a more suitable horse trailer, with less anxious glances in the rearview mirrors.
And still they rested, cured, changed.
As an artist, I'm seeking a level of truth, of definition. I refer myself to biological connections, to the things I see around me. Walking my dogs, working with my horses, driving through the depths of snow to check water and feed, these events inform my process of coinciding within the textures of nature. While my paintings have evolved from a merging of my own ideas and the painting itself, the effects of the paint and water and graphite and subject, I was often the primary influencer. I created some level of rift, and it was then my work to develop within that.
I sought, in some way, to bring in the variety of surfaces, line, and chance that life outside me could provide. I wanted less of my own influence and more of a structure outside of myself.
My trunk portion remained, a record of the seasons past, of the mild and the frigid winters, the tremendous growth periods and the minimal ones, of the sun and the soil and the rain.
I like figuring. Working within an idea. Creating some resolutions to a problem posed.
The criteria of the show: Create 4 pieces of a 12" x 12" format to be viewed as a collection but exist on their own standing.
I'd been experimenting, well, thinking of and discussing the idea of incorporating the grains of wood into paintings, to let them be the defining nature. They tell their own stories, and perhaps I could use them to blend with mine.
And so, this elm that had had its own life, that once was a minute seed, that contained all that it needed to grow, and had grown, to a massive stature, and then felled for reasons unknown, could provide a structure for me.
A day, nay two, of cutting, sanding, measuring, glueing, pinning, sanding again, and that cylindrical trunk emerged into a set of four 11" x 11" tiles, bounded by 1/2" strips of redwood from a horse shed. The surface was ready, with rings and figuring and ... input.
I carried them around with me for awhile, enthralled with their tightness and solidity, their apparent concreteness.
I tasked myself with a way to consider this as a collection that told a story as a whole, but then could present each piece as an individual. I wanted each tile to be inexorably linked with one another, dependent as it once was as a column in which to grow. I used the framework of the masters, of the Golden Ratio and the dissection of such. My understanding of the relationships found in this ratio and the removal of the square to create another golden rectangle coincided with the square aspects of the project.
I lost myself for a happy time in the equations and the relationships therein. I treated each 11 x 11 square (I determined that the Elm wood be the guiding force, and the redwood as the framework in which it rested, in my own "Ren" interpretation) as the square removed, and extended the rectangle into the adjacent square. Using the lines to identify places of prominence and tie-ins with the other squares, I added the structure of mathematical rule into the rings of the growth.
I savored the expectations of a definite and controlled outcome.
The physicality of this name is immersed in this horse. His is a story of trust, goodwill, and courage. He brings to life the ideas of the work, a reason that all of the rules and figuring are worthwhile. His representations are valid to him, his expressions are his own, yet he signifies a universality that stretches across the horse portrayal into the human realm.
Choosing his expressions for each tile was done with care and consideration. Again, each piece is determined to stand on its own but is intrinsically connected with the other. Communication, both in horses and humans, can be weighted with positioning, social standing, and body language. The subtleties belie the importance.
The level of chance, unpredictability, weak points structured from years past; they constantly affected the Elm as I worked. I found that different areas reacted to the washes of paint with an assortment of character. Some portions held the moisture on the surface, content to let it pool and solidify. Others immediately soaked it into the grain, requiring layers and layers to achieve an effect.
Each tile reacted as a whole to the paint. The first tile that I started, Circumspect, was content to let me use a brush and blend the colors. It fit.
Until I started Hearken.
I have found that I cannot often push a painting past its existence. While I can urge it along, it seems to be on its timeline and formation of ideas. Hearken immediately reminded me of this. My attempts at a similar process to Circumspect failed. Finally, in some level of experimentation and giving myself over to the ideas of the wood, I grabbed my palette knife and created washes of color. Pressing, scraping, applying, thinning and thickening the wash, this is where the wood lay. It began to take on its own contributions. Throughout the next three tiles, I revisited Circumspect, applying what I had learned to it.
I treated the Golden Ratio lines as a delineation, a break in color and thickness. I wanted them to carry themselves throughout the painting without breaking it apart. Those rules and measurements needed to present themselves just as validly as the rings.
And then, the very issue of end grain wood brought about some of my greatest realizations in respect to life. The rings signify the growth, the years. Extrapolating this, they could represent learning and stages.
Pressures contracted and expanded the tiles. What I once considered as stalwart became flexible and brittle. While the corners, the intersections of the stories, remained as they once were, the very insides of the tiles were continuing to change.
And this is where they cracked.
And this is where we crack.
In our growth.
In taking chances.
In leaping into the unknown.