Weaving Naturalism and Art Together: Square Foot Studies at IN:SITE
I have always been fascinated by art thats inspiration dwells in the world of science. The kind that asks questions and makes explorations. I’ve been beginning to work with this theme of environmentalism or naturalist’s studies in my artwork over the past few years and used the invitation to participate in the IN:SITE outdoor installation show as a impetus to dive deeper. Curated by Jenny Lee Fowler and Natasha Brooks-Speruti, IN:SITE is a summer long installation at the Snyder Estate in Rosendale NY featuring work from 16 northeast artists. See this post for more about the project and artists! I received the invitation to participate in spring of 2016 and immediately began to brainstorm how to take my art, which is often on paper, and adapt it to being outside for three months.
As I started sketching I kept returning to a trip to Nevada and Utah I took this past winter. During the weeks that I spent there I was able to spend many days alone, exploring, observing, writing and just being in nature. During this time of inspiration I rediscovered my love of journaling, writing and text. I also started asking myself questions about nature and wondering how I could continue to learn as a naturalist through making art. And how to share this process with viewers. That’s where the idea for the square-foot studies originated. I began to marvel at how much was really present in any single spot on the earth’s floor. I knew I wanted to highlight and elevate the smallest pieces found there from a scrap of a leaf to an insect that happened to be there in that moment. I also knew I wanted to make a reference to square foot studies as a naturalist’s tool to learn more about the forest. By looking on the ground and identifying leaves, seeds, and other items one learns much about the surrounding forest type; the square foot serves as a sample or an index to the forest.
I started the IN:SITE project by spending several days choosing the perfect sites. I sited the three pieces nearby each other to create continuity, but gave them enough space that they would be diverse. I then began the tedious process of examining and listing every single piece from the top of the leaf letter down into the soil in each square foot site. I then took these lists home and typed them out, word by word on plant dyed fabrics strips (goldenrod, sumac, and black walnut) using a manual typewriter. Since I knew that the exhibition would be up for almost 3 months I wanted to use fabrics that would react to weather. To rain, sun, wind, and time. Will the words begin to bleed? Will the colors bleach? I look forward to returning and documenting the process.
While installing I experimented with many different methods of hanging the pieces before I settled on driftwood structures that were lashed together with natural colored twine. They serve almost as gateways and are subtly located within the landscape.
During the opening I was excited to hear feedback and share my process. This project is more conceptual than others I have done, but many people got the idea behind it without explanation, others didn’t. This is definitely something I want to continue working with.
The biggest thing I am taking away from this project is where to go next. A lot of my art involves tedious process, from drawing every single piece of a bird’s nest to exploring the leaf litter in these square-foot studies. I like to ask myself why this type of process intrigues me? I’m sure I will continue to explore this question and more as I continue to weave my love of science, nature, and creating art together.