Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fresh Snow and Introspection

Fresh Snow II
We had our first real snow last week. It transformed everything into a pristine, soft, bright fantasy - as if we hadn't seen this world at all before. The rain and warm breeze over the weekend erased all of it, but now it feels like winter and the snow will return.

I love the promise of quiet and introspection that comes with this season. It's a time to take in all that happened in the past year and process it, keeping what is constantly nourishing and learning from the rest.

The piece above, Fresh Snow II, is part of a diptych I made after a ski into Grass Pond last winter. I was experimenting with textured stabilizer as a substrate for printing digital photos, as I did in April. I am still learning how to prepare the substrate for printing, but I love the effect so much that it is a very satisfying process.

One of the best experiences of the past year was the coming together of a small group of spectacular women to paddle every Monday evening. We began in August and continued into late October, when the lakes and streams began to return to their solid forms. As the days got shorter, we paddled by headlamp and made campfires at our destination each time to warm our hands and to heat whatever food we brought to share. The experience of being with these adventurous friends in beautiful wild places was expanding and miraculous for each of us. Our thankfulness for each other and for the amazing place in which we live became our name: Gratitude Girls.

I started a Gratitude Series of collages, using some of photographs I took of our adventures. They are hanging now in the holiday show at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Here are a few. Make some Adventures of your very own!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Best Kind of Limitation

Often I talk with my students about how limitations and constraints can be good for an artist. They can increase creativity by reducing the sometimes mind-numbing thousands of directions and options. At least, that's what they often do for me.

This science-and-art project that focuses on the processes of management, regrowth, and ecology in the Long Term Ecology Research sites at the Paul Smith's College VIC is a challenge. There are so many organisms, microhabitats, seasonal changes, and management types that making art to interpret any of this can feel too big and too complex.

I worked through various styles and formats for making artwork of my own for our exhibition, and I could not settle on what I wanted until a perfect collaboration occurred to me. The professor teaching the class that is organizing this project is also a poet - my friend Craig Milewski. When I realized I wanted words to combine with my images, the poem Craig is writing about this place and its ecological processes seemed like the right fit. And Craig agreed.

What you see above is a try-out of several pieces that will be layered to make one of five for the show opening on April 24th at the VIC, one for each of the parts of Craig's poem. The perfect and best kind of limitation - and collaboration.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Regrowth, Energy, Mystery

Photo of the clear cut plot with the March snow. 
Printed on the textured and painted background. 
This image reflects the regrowth, energy, and mystery I feel at this place, completely cleared of trees about 15 years ago.
Last season's bird nest in a red maple above the "Plot #2 - Clearcut" sign. 
The architecture of this young forest holds and defines the life here.

Today I am working with questions.
  • what format shall I use for the final artwork?
  • what do the colors I use say about the meaning of the work?
  • how will I incorporate data, maps, other images?
  • can I use some of Craig's poetry with the images?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Found on the Trail

Last season's Beech leaves and Usnea lichen found on my last visit to the research site. Layered between silk organza. Hung in my forest studio window.
This one with Beech leaf, Yellow Birch bark fragment, and decorative papers.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Arranging Images

Some of my photos from the research site, printed and arranged on color-splashed watercolor paper and text photocopied from a Forest Service publication Vascular Plant Species of the Forest Ecology Research and Demonstration Area, Paul Smith's, New York.
This is my image-collection-and-arrangement process. I like to include maps in place-based work, and I found on-line topographic maps from both 1905 and 1955, northeast section of the Town of Brighton, New York.
Today I'm printing maps and playing with leaves and fabric. It all becomes part of the final product, even if it isn't seen by anyone else.   

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Finding the Essence

Paul Smith's College Student Center on Lower St. Regis Lake
Teaching art classes at Paul Smith's College since last September has been an adventure. The students are lively, creative, and friendly. And many of them are most at home in the northern forest or on pristine lakes. After all, it is a forestry and natural resources school, among other things. For fun, some of these young people snow shoe, climb trees, and throw axes. Others are in the culinary  and hospitality programs - some of them like to play with food (and sometimes bring me exquisite bites of their creations). In these and the other programs, they are very hands-on people, which makes them great art students. They amaze and inspire me. The faculty does no less.

Recently I was invited, along with several other artists, to interpret the science involved in setting up and monitoring a Long Term Ecological Research Project by students in a senior-level course. That Art & Science connection is dear to my heart - having loved and worked in the ecological field as scientist for years - and I am honored to be part of the project. I was out at the research site last weekend, and now I am processing images and information to determine how I want to make a visual artwork for the exhibition of the science and the art at the Paul Smith's College VIC, which will open on April 24th.
The research and monitoring will take place - hopefully over at least the next 200 years (!!!) - in the plots set up about 15 years ago along the Jenkins Mountain Trail to study the effects of 5 timbering techniques in the forest at the Paul Smith's College Visitor Interpretive Center, formerly owned by NY State and now owned and managed by the college. The photo above summarizes the challenge of telling this story with visual arts - ecological interactions, human use, history, and regeneration. 

I'll show my process here of experiencing the site; learning what is know about it already; talking with the students, faculty, and other scientists about the project; and then making some art that tells this story from my own point of view. I hope you'll tell me what you think, offer your ideas, and enjoy the process. Thanks!