Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Forest Through The Trees

Hello again, everyone. So I had another one of those "update every other day" weeks in February and haven't paid enough subsequent attention to this blog. Regardless, here are some very overdue photos of my and Deanna's opening for The Forest Through The Trees. Details of some of the pieces can be found in one of my earlier entries.

From left to right: Deanna's work, a collaborative installation of tiny paper birds in bottles, and more collaborative drawings.

The fox on the wall is a watercolor of mine, as is the blue desk filled with paper birds. The birch boxes filled with intaglio and collage are Deanna's.

Two pieces of mine: a "bird chorus" of tiny stuffed intaglio birds, and an installation of paper locusts. I started the locust project in Chautauqua in 2009 and I'm really glad I finally got to try it out. It seemed like I spent forever printing and assembling hundreds of these, but I have to admit I was a little disappointed with how small the whole mass looked on the wall together. 

A shot of our collaborative drawings

Deanna's work and admirers

Since my last update, I've continued to think about the bat die-offs and how I might interpret them through a piece like the paper locusts. Fortunately, I have been invited to explore these ideas in a show this fall, so brace yourselves for more photos of paper animals. 

As I delve into ideas for this show, I continue to find myself influenced by the past too. Most people who have been to the Mattress Factory Museum in the past few years have probably seen Ruth Stanford's What Remains on Sampsonia Way, an installation she made on the front of an old row house commemorating the lives of that house's former occupants. Photos at that link also show the piece she made on the inside, called In the Dwelling House. I had the pleasure of helping Ruth with the installation of the latter work, and getting an intimate view of her perspective on the traces people leave behind in cities has had a permanent impact on my work. (And, um, you'll notice that cabinet stocked with glass jars filled with detritus found in the house - a big visual and conceptual influence for me, obviously.) I draw animals, but in essence I've really felt that my work is about the way that humans perceive nature, and how concepts like antiquity and preciousness and knowledge influence how we show and talk about "nature" to other humans. Also, as I've settled in Pittsburgh, a city truly at the crossroads of ghosts from the past and promises of the future, her works about what has been have continued to resonate.

One of the front stones of the house has been replaced with a stone bearing a quote from novelist Italo Calvino, from his book Invisible Cities, a short work of fiction about Marco Polo in the court of Kublai Khan, describing cities he's visited in his travels across Asia. I've owned a copy for years, but finally sat down and read it. It really spoke to me, a lover of museums and old things, a person who has lived abroad in a place that felt bizarrely more like home, and a simultaneously exploring, begrudging, and affectionate occupant of a very strange city. A few passages I marked:

"This city which cannot be expunged from the mind is like an armature, a honeycomb in whose cells each of us can place the things he wants to remember: names of famous men, virtues, numbers, vegetable and mineral classifications, dates of battles, constellations, parts of speech."

"Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a part of his past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer posses lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places."

"The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls."

Somewhere in the intersection of this, and Ruth's work, and the bat die-off, is the genesis of new pieces. Oh, and I'm planning another collaboration, too, this time with my friend and fellow Chautauqua alum Sara Gibson. A small subset of her work is found at her blog, where it will be obvious that we share a love of nature, glass containers, and clusters of small objects. Stay tuned, everyone. 

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