Thursday, December 27, 2018

Forty Years #36: Outdoor Sculpture

In 2007 I stopped teaching bookmaking in schools and took advantage of the time to broaden my creative horizons. One of the things I did was take a workshop with Bruce Iverson on Chinese brush painting at the Newburyport Art Association. I enjoyed the class but felt that the cultural gap was too wide for me to bridge and make work that felt truly my own. It did, however, reawaken my desire to work with ink. I had also decided to participate for the first time in Outdoor Sculpture at Maudslay State Park in Newburyport. I made banners of sumi ink drawings using hemlock branches and attached them to hemlock trees. Although I had tested them in the weather, they were not able to withstand the solid week of rain that came right after they were installed. I was able to repair them enough to be presentable for the three-week run of the exhibit but they never returned to their initial glory. I didn’t let that stop me and tried them in a couple of other locations. I had some more unexpected weather challenges and abandoned them as a project partly because of the technical difficulties and partly because they had become repetitive.

The next year I was having trouble figuring out what to do. I turned to what had been my source of inspiration for so many years before—words. The theme was Trace (creating work that adheres to the theme is optional) and I chose to work with the words of nineteenth century poet John Greenleaf Whittier who had often visited Maudslay when it was a private estate. For Whispered Fragments: John Greenleaf Whittier, I hung Tyvek strips with lines from his poems written with Sharpie marker from two old apple trees.
The following year I used the words of a nineteenth century English poet, William Wordsworth. In a piece called Word Play, letters made of sticks attached to metal created a search and find puzzle in a tree which spelled out "Let nature be your teacher."
Two other Maudslay pieces used words. For The Spirit of the Garden, I wrote the words of Martha Brookes Hutcheson, designer of Maudslay’s formal garden on bricks  with paint and sand.
Breathe was my response to the theme Inside Out. 
My final piece of outdoor sculpture was at Flying Horse Sculpture at the Pingree School in South Hamilton, MA. I continued Whispered Fragments with the words of Emily Dickinson. I had many difficulties with the installation which I chronicled on my blog. It turned out that the four crab apple trees were in an incredibly windy place. I started with 88 strips. There were only 20 still on the trees when the time came to dismantle the installation. I decided that I would only work indoors from then on. 

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