Monday, October 31, 2005

Kristin Tollefson's Bliss

Emerging from the laurel grove, one finds oneself in a grove of another sort. Bamboo sprouts crowd up the hill in a thicket of strong stalks. Along the edge of the trail to the right is a natural quince bower, created by two lichen-encrusted specimens that have grown together in a knot of branches. Past the bower is a natural room skirted on the back and sides by the aforementioned bamboo, and carpeted by ivy.

I was drawn to this space very early on in the process of looking at the site, and for many reasons considered it to be too precious, or entirely complete without my interference. And all the same, I kept returning and questioning my draw to the place. In the end, I realize I wanted to make the vastness of the site smaller and more intimate, that I wanted to reference my personal relationship with the place which includes making a special hideaway for my kids, and to call into mind the historical fact that there was a valid domestic aspect to what is now seen primarily as a derelict industrial zone.

The chair frames were salvaged from under the laurel grove next door, and woven with raw steel wire. Black wooden beads punctuate the back rest and mimic the blackened quince that I discovered beneath the ivy and propped in the bower.

"My work derives its form from the organic and constructed worlds of botany and personal adornment. Utilizing traditional fiber techniques of stitching and weaving, I build my work out of metal wire and surplus, cast-off or industrial materials; I relish the tension inherent in creating beautiful, precious objects out of ordinary components. Inspiration for my forms is drawn from sources as wide-ranging as botanical illustration, folk art, fractals, and food preservation. Simultaneously scientific and poetic, these sculptures often assemble multiple simple elements into complex wholes, addressing themes of generative and transformative processes, the value of production and attention to detail, and the dialogue between interior and exterior space.

Bliss is a space that engages the domestic and the dream. It is a place into which we retreat. It is of this earth, but not of this world."

Ruth Marie Tomlinson's Beauty & Desire

After the sharp turn up toward the woods from the edge of the ravine, the end of an old homesite becomes evident: bottles, the inside drum of a washer, and a homemade concrete threshold printed with hands of varying sizes were left here. Plants also indicate previous domestic life, and the 20 foot hight sprawling laurel marks the entry to Ruth Marie Tomlinson's piece.

Under the shady green canopy are books and specimen envelopes that chronicle several of the non-native plant species introduced to this site, including holly, butterfly bush, laurel and bamboo. The books hold anecdotal and scientific information about the plants, while the specimen envelopes hold a sample leaf backed by paper with the word "desire" or "beauty" in delicate script.

About her work in general Ruth Marie writes, "I have come to view nature as environment, including all the spaces and systems I inhabit and because I am part of these systems, I too, am nature. It has been a gentle but powerful shift from reverence for what is outside and separate, to an acknowledgement of my role within the system. I no longer look at nature as exotic; rather I see it as everyday. It is the grass pushing through my sidewalk and it is the sidewalk and it is the person who put the sidewalk there. It is the goods I buy, the politics I set into motion, as well as the sun raising over the Cascades and setting in the Olympics. This changing view of nature has inspired my interest in a marriage of industrial or man-made materials with forms derived from plants, animals, geology and the elements. It has also driven my interest in making art that creates environment and places the viewer as subject in that work, establishing an environment that revels in ambiguities and complexities of meaning / experience."

Regarding installation of UnderStory, she wrote the following: "Beneath this overgrown laurel hedge, remnant of someone’s careful yard, hangs a collection of preserved plant specimens, all gathered from plants imposed at Pritchard Park. These specimens tell a story of desire and conquest. Hanging books hold field notes documenting the current state of five imposed plant species. Each is a beautifully domestic plant, the desire of a family home, but potentially ruinous to the native environment. The books themselves await ruin, exposed to the elements. This work explores a blurred line between nature and culture. Pritchard Park is full of this ambiguity, the landscape rich with evidence of how much we are part of nature and yet deny our role within a symbiotic system."

Michelle Arab's Epiphyte

As you continue on the path, you pass a stretch of uninhabited space where no artists chose to place work. It skirts along the top of the ridge that drops steeply on one side toward the water, and heads gently up through heavy brush on the other side. Michelle had spoken to me about being drawn into the site because of its contours: she gravitated toward the ravine, down to the low spots that were nested at the crook of the cliff that abutted the beach.

Her piece at the big leaf maple creates its own kind of hollow in spite of its location at the crest of the steep hill, and because of her choice of material and treatment. The cluster of trunks has been wrapped in twine, methodically and in a linear pattern. The upright of the trees creates ribs for an oversized basket, of which the twine forms the weft. One space between two trunks has been left open, and viewers could enter the piece.

I was struck by the play of light on this piece -- how sun penetrated or reflected off the surface of the sometimes taut, then slackening line.

Michelle's own words: "My work investigates the relationship between art, landscape and architecture by creating conceptually driven, site specific pieces that reveal latent histories and stories.

Supported by Big Leaf Maple trunks, the wrapping cotton twine will transform over the course of the three-month exhibit as the twine absorbs moisture. The changes in the environment will cause the initially taut lines to relax and break down the twine screen."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Dan Linz' Monolith

Continuing on the trail through the eastern portion of Pritchard Park, you cross between the posts of an old barbed wire fence pinned to the edge of the bluff overlooking the EPA site. Just past the jog in the path, Dan Linz' piece is tucked on this crest, its imposing weight suspended improbably from a tree. It is a huge and dominating piece, and it is easily subsumed into its surroundings. If you aren't looking, you will miss it.

Dan's work embodies the buzz of contradictions within this place that I wanted to unveil through this show. His piece could hang anywhere, and yet it is quintessentially about and from this site. It is framed in a rectangular box, and because of that it is incongruous here, in this mass of undergrowth. But it is seamless as well: the box repeats the straight lines of the fenceposts and creosoted poles that dot the landscape, and the box form holds a collection of specimens from the site. Wound on the left side is a length of barbed wire cut from the adjacent fence, tacked to the base is corrugated iron roofing from a fallen shed, and collected across the face are other artifacts: a deer skull, gravel shiny black with the reference to creosote, an abandoned gasoline can and an old toy loader are some.

His gift is distilling the sense of discovery one encounters in this environment at the site. Darkness and beauty and mystery and sickness and hope intermingle here. He collects and displays with interest and lack of judgment, he witnesses and speaks through his work.

He writes, "For me art is like being lost without a sense of destination. Never quite sure whether I’ve gone too far, or not quite far enough. Fumbling in the dark for that map, that feeling of found. Its less about where you’re going and more about realizing that moment where you’re at.

It is my intention to create a piece that encapsulates not the similarities but the small disparities that make the site at Pritchard Park almost human. The history gone and grown over that continues to affect both the landscape of the future and the future of the landscape."