CORN AND THE CONNECTICUT RIVER:

a paper odyssey/art installation

Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum, Hadley, MA August-October 2011

During the planning stages of this installation, Susan Lisk, director of the Porter Phelps Huntington Foundation shared with me a story of the Connecticut River flooding the cornfield in the early spring, such that there were dozens of carp somewhat trapped after the waters receded. She, accompanied by others, trekked down to where they lay imprisoned in an attempt to collect them in corn baskets to then drag or carry them back to the river so they could swim away, freed from their constraints, describing an image I found at once breathtaking and inspiring, for the work I had begun.

 

For the relationship between corn and the Connecticut River is at once personal, historical, intense, and fascinating, dating back thousands of years. It then occurred to me that if one perceives time as an accordion, folding up on itself, creating threads of contact having more to do with sensory experience, one may well be reminded of other such sensory memories such as listening to a drum or a flute, planting corn kernels or seeds, tasting a cooked ear, smelling catfish frying, or grilling salmon, and thus my vision for this piece took on a more perceptible shape.

 

It is a long-held Mayan belief that people are made of and from corn. Today there are those whom consider themselves “people of corn” across North, Central and South America, because cultural beliefs color both group and individual perception. An individual’s broader perspective is a critical aspect of comprehension — of one’s self, one’s life, and all that one perceives. As such, the works in this exhibit require more than one point of view to fully appreciate the resulting work. This installation thus invites you to alter your position, perceive that the lighting is altered, take pains to alter it by your physical perspective, allow yourself to make a joyful and perhaps uninhibited sound, return for a fresh viewing on another day, in a different time of day or weather, savoring what you have just read or eaten, and allow yourself to be touched in a unique and personal manner by this work, which was created for such individual experiences of appreciation.

PAPERWORKS:

Paper City Studios, Holyoke, MA  May 2011

Paper City Arts is a gallery on a canal in Holyoke. The Catfish swam up the Connecticut river and jumped out of the canal and through the window on the 4th floor of the gallery. Being deeply immersed in Mayan lore and cosmology I felt it my duty to absorb the catfish and make him from corn fibers. The Mayans believe that people were made of corn. You are what you eat.

The Gold Corn God: “Even Hun Hunahpu Looks Heavenward When Planting a Seed” this string/pulp piece depicts the Mayan god of corn at the moment of hope and prayer when planting a kernel of corn in the earth.

The fibers emerging from the cracks in the ancient bricks whirl around the gallery floor signifying the sater and breath of the years of buildings’ relationship with the canal, and before, when the river flowed freely; before the canals.

SHARING LIGHT

Ursa Major Gallery,
Shelburne Falls, MA 2013.
I work with form, fibers, light and water.  Negative forms, the insides of things, intrigue me and hold my imagination captive. 

       Light, Fiber and Water: 

Fibers soak up water, absorbing everything in that water. 

The fibers of our being, us humans also soak up water.  We, like fibers are held together by water and other fibers.  This is what paper IS.  Fibers that have been freed by their former constriction within the plant are now able to connect in any which way.  Their new connection is bonded through water.  Share a glass of water with a friend.  Notice the light.  The light in the glass of water, the light on the surface of the river, the illumination of the river bottom.  Light and water.  What are we made of?  Elements that are new and different every day.  Light and water, mud and earth.  Plant fibers capture the light and water for our consumption, our expression, our pleasure and communication. 

Share the light.

LOSS AND FORGIVENESS

Grubbs Gallery at the Williston Northampton School,
   Easthampton, MA, December 1999

Loss and Forgiveness are universal, timeless themes, this was about a specific time in my life and these works are an attempt to share some of the emotional quality.

 

Process can have a rhythm to it. Especially when you work in a series, the work develops its own rhythm. With Sh’eva Each of the 10’ x 9’ panels is made of a different fiber, each panel took about a week, 1-harvest, cook and beath the fiber:

2-form sheets: 3-press and heal sheets together and dry-press them in their final size, 10’ x9’. Each fiber took about a week, and there are 7, one for each day of sitting sheva that one does when a close family member has died. Milkweed, Willow leaf, eel grass, cat tail, iris leaf, Queen Anne’s lace and flax, are all hanging from willow branches that are suspended from White Birch poles laying across the rafters 3 stories up. Moving and shifting on the gentlest of air currents, the piece seemed to breathe, walking through and around it one got the feeling of being shielded by a cocoon.

 

Unbearable Loss is based on the moment the spirit leaves, flies out the window, and the two figures left behind. Soaked and bent willow branches are the structure connected by flax and seaweed paper that encircles a heart-shaped stone.

 

Van Dyke prints on Handmade flax paper visually representing a dancer signing each concept: Forgive; Loss, Gone, Grieve; Hope; and Sorrow.

 

The gallery was transformed into a hushed temple where viewers could walk into the sculptures and around the space, contemplating “Loss and Frogiveness” two very human emotion we all share, and share with many non-humans as well.

BREATHE

Northampton Center for the Arts, Northampton MA, November 2004

 

Breathe.  Breathe again, it helps to focus, keep us alive. It gives us space. Imagine if we could have space in between the molecules that make us who we are. When I was in Japan, a fellow artist equated the empty space in Japanese art with the empty space that Japanese people keep in between each other. This is the space of acknowledgement and respect. Maintaining that space says “I see you, you are your own being, and me I am my own being”: acknowledgement and respect.

The empty space I tried to incorporate in between the “bits” of each of the figures in “String Theory” are a way of physically and visually expressing the physics behind these 2 theories.

 

The figures represented by “bits of pulp” stuck to strings are a tightrope walker and a flute player. These 2 figures represent two dynamics in personalities of many relationships. The tightrope walker is the risk-taker, imagining the impossible, defying gravity, creating something new, exploring the unknown. The flute player is grounded, supported by the earth, safe, but making beautiful music which supports the tight-rope walker while she balances on a thread at dizzying heights off to the unknown. Relationships where each person periodically trades positions are the luckiest.

 

Paper is the most vulnerable, strongest material I know of, other than skin. All the works in this installation are fibers of organic  materials, some with photographs wome with seaweed pulps, some with a bamboo structure. The photographic images were taken in Japan while I was there studying traditional papermaking techniques and soaking up the culture. Just like a hydrophilic fiber soaks up water.

EDWARD ALBEE RESIDENCY

Edward Albee Foundation, The Barn, Montauk, NY June 2000

What seems strong and solid is often not, and what appears fragile and vulnerable, is often quite strong.  Think of a basil leaf, in the blazing sun all day, stretching itself out and gaining potency from the sun’s rays.  You or I would wilt in about 25 minutes, parched and longing for water and sunscreen.  The earth beneath our feet surely seems quite solid, but wind, rain, surf, and time (even small amounts of time) can erode the most solid looking, stony cliffs we have ever walked upon.

My work has often described the relationship between vulnerability and strength.  I am always fascinated by this relationship in nature, in couples, friends, people.  It takes great strength to weep, to become vulnerable and allow some erosion to occur, some change, alteration in one’s inner view.  To be vulnerable like the great cliffs of Montauk, ever changing, throughout the day with the dramatic lighting, and over time, perhaps overnight with the wind, storms and raging surf.  And yet to still seem so strong, with a wild majestic power.  I have been fascinated by a specific stretch of coastline in Montauk, N.Y. for over 30 years.  I have followed its contours, grieved at the loss of coastline and vegetation, the erosion caused by waves and storms.  My infrequent visits make me acutely aware of the changes over time.  

Observe the world, Today; it is changing as we breathe.

award-winning Cape Cod artist