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Burial Beginnings

I went through all the spare white fabrics that I had and tore them into strips for bundling the first of the artwork to be buried. And to be honest it was difficult in the beginning for me to wrap the first house.

But once the wrapping started, the care of each turn of a newly added length of cloth, it became easier. Explaining why to our son who came down for a few days visit was easier than I thought it would be. He felt sad about it. I asked, “What should I do with the pieces?” He only said that he wished there was a place for them to go. And I said, “There is a place and I am getting them ready.” I think he gets it now.

I used raffia to hold the wrapping cloth more tightly. It is a nod to my earlier basketry days.

House number two closed up and ready for wrapping. Here is a peek inside to the interior and the chair I left behind when escaping into the open. The interior wall papers were photographed images of inside the house Dolph Smith grew up in and copies of papers an artist friend had at the time. They reminded me of the wall coverings of my childhood. Another word for “childhood” I heard from my Indian cab driver in Victoria. He called it his “earlyhood”. I like that so much better because it does not always conjure up the idea of small children.

The last of the three.

All of them bundled.

And the goal of an empty box.

In the box was the house-shaped planning book. I could not wrap it up with the houses because I also used it to contain all my notes on a boat series that followed the houses. I really love all the thinking that went into working on how to portray what these houses meant to me…the houses of growing up. There are several quotes from Gaston Bachalard in this planning book. He had so much to say about the house in his Poetics of Space book.

What was very interesting to me was how often I changed my focus on what I wanted these houses to say. Were they only about escape? Weren’t they also about knowing there was a place to come back to? It seems that this little planning book was a great way to explore what mattered about doing this work and how it should look when finished.

At the time I made them I sure did not consider how they’d look the last time I would see them. Now it is just the shellac and a bit of rosemary tied to each piece. (The rosemary is because there have always been bushes of it outside my studio and I think it has something to do with memory.)

Shellacking won’t come until I get all the patriarchs bundled and that is going to take some time.

Til later.

 

The Starting Point of What to Bury

The statement of these houses when they appeared in an exhibition titled, “Evidence of Experience” is as below. I think the year of the exhibition was 2000 at a local gallery where I filled the entire space with words and works that depicted my “evidence”.

Where I Once Belonged

“It was a patriarchal system where men managed the means of acquisition and made the decisions which determined our lives. The woman’s obligation (and usually desire) was to ease those determinations into existence.  As children we knew our place, our value, and our limitations.  We also knew that we were not necessarily needed and therefore easily excused to wander and explore our natural world in complete safety and with wild abandon.”

Those were certainly different times.

It was a series of houses replicating the one of my childhood and my desire to escape to the outside, to be free of being a part of the family. I was a child who needed elbow room. So the houses show my escape routes. Escape from that linoleum flooring of squares in brown and beige, that old fashioned wall paper, those curtained windows, the feeling of being closed in. I am sure I was a happy child, just a private one.

A book pulled out from another house with memories written and bundled into the attic.

The writing came from a paper I wrote in graduate school titled, “Observations on the Familiar and How They Determine Our Sense of Place”. 

Note: I really loved graduate school. Maybe not at the times I had to defend my work, but it made me really think about what mattered enough to make art about.

Anyway, these pieces will be the first to be wrapped and shellacked for the eventual burial. And because I mention the patriarchal system I was raised in, the patriarchs will be buried with them.

There are several more of those dear old patriarchs in the series….old men teaching the next generation how to be mindful of their responsibilities.

It is a whole lot of wrapping to get this section ready to go down first and I will have to find a designated area to pile the bundles. I might miss their company in the studio but it is time to let these things go.

The next layer after that will likely be the personal works about being a woman and the insecurities of all that entails. Not as large a group of bundles but sure do wish I had taken care of that a long time ago. So I am looking forward to a tight wrap on that work.

Then maybe the war works. Next the Expedition pieces which is the largest grouping I think.

Anyway, I am sorting out my thoughts and the pieces as I look for fabrics to strip and check my shellac supply.

Til later.

Home and Getting Along with Ideas

We are back to walking the dam five days a week. This morning it was lovely. The water like glass.

I also returned to the gym at 5:30 this morning…rode the bike, did upper body workout and then boxed the heck out of the bag. All felt good.

Then just now I mailed this piece to a friend in Australia.

I am trying to find homes for some of the artworks that I have. Australia inspired works should find a home over there. The book below also went to a friend down under.

And I have decided that other works done for exhibition will all stay together and have a proper burial. Each piece mummy wrapped, shellacked and laid to rest. I shall keep myself occupied this summer preparing the wrapping strips and bundling.

I like the whole idea that they might just be discovered years from now and prompt a digging of the site…..a discovery all over again. Some pieces are anti war works that after going on exhibit returned home….no one wants reminders of war.

Another exhibit going to ground will be the entire Expedition to Elsewhere: the Evidence. How appropriate is that! All of it is biodegradable as most of my works are made from natural materials.

And since I have so much of the Native American sweet grass, I will use it to smudge each exhibit as it is laid to rest. And the soils collected for years to make earth pigments will naturally find a place to settle.

The joy was in the making, the exhibiting…not the storing or dispersing in parts and pieces. While I can I will give it all a final resting place. Burning was good for some of my work…but not the ones to be buried. I do know that the grave will have to be at least ten feet long, five feet deep and four feet wide.  But I don’t have to call in the digger for some time. Wrapping is going to take a while.

I will document as I go with this plan. For now I need to get started on making strips.

Til later.

The Latest Trip to Australia

Come and Gone in Twenty-Nine Hours

I continue to come back

eight times in thirteen years.

I am more tired

and this tiredness is beginning

to feel familiar.

It is harder to be here alone

and I sense this may be the last time.

 

I have opened myself to this country

in a deep private and personal way.

But this time I feel the loneliness

of solitude

quietly seeping in.

I am more a foreigner

than I had hoped for.

                                                                                                                    

Australia has not lost its magic.

I am older

and the vision for that magic

is somewhat diminished

due to a combination of age

and awareness of time

that have more or less

besieged me on this trip.

 

And I am here

on this precious soil

just twenty-eight hours.

I think I am feeling the loss

of this country before I have left it.

 

Australia feels like an old dear friend

that I am seeing slowly turn away.

Or am I shifting my gaze

toward the comforts and familiarity of home.

 

Is it becoming time

to give up the adventure

and content myself with memories

of what we used to be to each other?

 

I am feeling the loss

with each Eucalypt I see

as if for the last time.

I miss it already.       

S. Webster

 

I wrote that in the year 2011. I was alone staying in an unfamiliar Bed & Breakfast near Fitzroy Gardens. There were blisters on my feet from walking to Gertrude Street. I was having a cold beer in the gardens and thinking I was old. Eight years later and six more trips down under I am even more aware of my age…within a few months of seventy-five.

I am not saying good-bye to this country. This is not the last time to be stopped in my tracks by the sheer beauty of a Eucalyptus tree. I will be back, if not next year then the year after.

It is not just the beckoning call of the landscape, the outrageous birds who can’t be quiet and inconspicuous, nor the endless distances that lure you into their horizons.  It is more likely the generosity of the Australian people and the way they make you feel like you could belong here.

About that landscape, outrageous birds, and endless landscape.

These are the some, very few, of those who make the trip worthwhile. They are students who were with me again this year in a master class titled, Seeking the Visual. Each of them received the gift of a glass hour glass with brass compass on each end. My words to them, “Pick a direction and be aware that you might be running out of time.”

Their work was outstanding as usual…..

This was each of them finding the visual of something that mattered to them. So wonderful to be part of. So thank you very much to Judith, Jane, Jenny, Andie, Mem, Anne, Kaye, Margaret, Lorraine, Patsy,  Madeleine and Alex.

I mostly worked on my sketchbook with the abundance of flora laying around.

 

I started a piece of work using scraps of old Japanese fabrics and sashiko threads on paper. I was challenged to make curves with my stitching and to use a proper needle. The gift of a beautiful silk hand sewn Eucalypt leaf with the perfect needles attached and a finger pin cushion was a perfect way to start.

Thank you Jan.

Later, after traveling from the Grampians to Baldessin Press to work on lino and contact prints, this became my favorite image of the entire trip to Australia.

I can finish the panel of stitching while sitting with Lee…then I think I will have it framed…all four plus feet of it.

Here are additional images of my trip starting with Tasmania.

 

Early flight to Melbourne.

Then off to the Grampians and Halls Gap.

And the dispersing of the Waterhouse Exhibit leaves from Fatal Shore.

And then off to leave some at Baldessin Press.

Quality time with other internationals.

Influenced by the work and book of Dianne Fogwell. We went back to the city for the opening of her show.

From the magic of Baldessin to Ocean Grove and a two day workshop on white line print making.

A final trip back to Melbourne before heading home to see a Bea Maddock piece at NGV and have a final flat white on Degraves St.

Thank you all for the inspiration, the gifts and most of all your hospitality.

Til later.