Not long ago, I discovered that there are adult Americans who have literally no idea what has been done to others, by this country, in our name, in our very lifetime. (I find this out when I paint something political, and nobody recognizes the reference.) So, I’ve resolved to contribute to the collective memory with some art. Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib are ripe with images begging for witness. But, more than just retelling history, I want to explore abstraction… ways we were all dehumanized by what was done, ways the psyche processes things that can never be quantified, never be justified. It’s been a journey, trying to find the place where an image is dissolved to its very essence.
Thus, after struggling some with too much realism, I finally found my way.
(Here are 1 and 2…)
It’s been a project all spring, to wander through the Burden woods, to see them without a mind- grid overlay, absorbing the gentle colors and tangled textures, and then to translate the scenery there into subtly abstracted forms in encaustic wax. Such an absorbing project.
Now that the woods have flushed with green, it will be harder. Bright green rarely translates well to canvas, for some reason. I don’t know why. It’s like trying to photograph a flower in that certain shade of purple that just never comes out quite right. But the New York woods in April are a jumble of tawny, ochre , and grey, so subtle and enchanting that I couldn’t get enough of them. This is one of the pieces I painted of the woods in April.
[This is a small piece, owing mainly to the expense of encaustic paint and the lack of resources I share with most artists. I’ve said before that I prefer large canvases. But, my God, this new (to me) medium is so rich and lush and full! Here’s the story on this painting.]
Last year, teenagers throwing fireworks in a tinder- dry forest ignited a roaring wildfire back in Cascadia, where I grew up. It burned for two months and took out 50,000 acres in the Columbia Gorge, blackening the landscape, destroying habitat, wounding animals, and sending Cascadians into mourning for some of the last of the once- verdant Pacific Northwest rainforests.
It hit especially hard because, decades before this fire, avaricious timber companies were razing all the forests, all over Cascadia. Ancient forests, thousands of years old, were being cast into clear cuts overnight. These were some of the very last forests, some of the few that escaped the saws, and we’d fought HARD for them. Cascadians took to the trees, mounted a rising resistance against the timber companies, and fought tooth and nail to save these very forests from the greedy saws of capitalism. Much of the radical environmental movement was born here, in these trees of the Pacific Northwest, for the very life of the world in which we all live. Continue reading