Sunday, December 18, 2016
MAKING PEACE WITH THE BONE TREE
CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE
In October I was asked to be part of a group show at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts titled GRIM(M). They were looking for either dark and haunting imagery or work that had something to do with the darker side of the Grimm Brother's fairy tales. I accepted the invitation right away but wondered for weeks what on earth I was going to make for this exhibition. I wouldn't describe my body of work as being dark ... or grim ... contemplative, maybe. I also thought about who would want to live with very haunting imagery on their walls on a daily basis. I continued to think about the theme and chewed on it most waking hours ... and sometimes in my dreams. Then some kind of transition happened in me ... I began to notice shadows and all the subtleties found in that darkness ... and the suggestion of stories that are not immediately obvious.
While I have worked primarily with photo etched metals the last several years, I wanted to try something different for this show. I enjoy photography and manipulating images in photoshop and thought that might be the springboard for me this time around. I asked Lindsay Masters, the director of Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, if I could photograph her with the intention of making her image be part of the Grim(m) show. Once she bravely said yes, I knew I was beginning a journey, not only into the darker side of things, but also a journey of new materials and new techniques.
Using Lindsay's image, I created MAKING PEACE WITH THE BONE TREE which measures 21.5" x 20" x 1.5". After days of messing around with photoshop, I blended Lindsay's image with some bare trees that I photographed at Rialto Beach on the Washington coast several years ago. I love the depth and shadows in this piece ... and the single visible eye looking to the side ... and the white bone-like structure of the central tree.
Once I was happy with the photoshop version, I printed the image using pigmented archival inks on thin Japanese gampi paper. I really wanted to achieve a tiled look so each image was printed on small squares of the gampi allowing for about a 1/4" overlap. I love how the overlaps are a bit darker and make the tiling more obvious. It was tricky glueing down each piece of very thin paper with pva archival glue and getting everything to line up as perfectly as possible ... a little bit like wrestling jellyfish.
It was so fun trying this new, to me, technique but I did want a little bit of my old voice, etched metal, to also be present. I etched a small brass door and hinged it in the lower right corner. I love doors in art and the slow reveal they contribute.
Inside the door is a small amulet and the words, " ... lay your burdens down ... lay your burdens down ...".
For the 'icing on the cake', I hammered some bent and rusty nails into the top of the cradleboard and with drippy paint, highlighted the tops of the nails. They sort of reiterate the white bone-like fingers of the bone tree.
This is my artists statement for the show ...
I hesitated, at first, when I was asked to be part of this show ... GRIM(M). My past body of work could not easily be described as dark ... but ... the more I got into it, the more I investigated the subtleties in the shadows ... the weaving of modern photography with vintage images ... a blending of science and the occult ... well ... then the story emerged ... the narrative ... the common denominator of all my work. Stay tuned ... but I think I will be leaning toward the dark side for a while now. A friend wrote to me saying, “These images make me go to some forgotten place in the hard to reach caverns of my subconscious, where Neptune rules, where time is warp and light is weft, and what is left is a kind of woven memory of myself, faded by dreams, or like reflections in the lake of clouds on an unclear day.” A big ‘thank you’ to my friend, Zo, for these words ... I couldn’t have said it better myself. -Shane Miller