Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines uncanny as: A) seeming to have a supernatural character or origin, or of being eerie or mysterious; B) being beyond what is normal or expected… Down a Poisonous Path is the second acrylic painting I completed after having spent most of my undergraduate studies lost within the boundaries of a print studio. I found the paint to be almost liberating, with its ability to portray vivid and bold color without the restrictive confines found in color printmaking, (such as the multi plate processes). What I didn’t realize at the time was that this painting was but the first step in a long journey.
The fall of 2009 seemed the perfect time to experiment with combining my newly acquired love of paint with the art of the book. The Space Within went through many metamorphoses over the course of the semester. It was created using ‘treasures’ which I had brought from home (some 600 miles away). Gears from an old clock, the skull of a song bird, insect wings, zinc printing plate, fossilized nautilus, and a glass eye are to name a few. It was a tremendous learning experience, which like the prior piece showed a world of nature and man, yet man is curiously absent.
Why does man do what he does? How does he fit into his environment? Why does he destroy or abandon what he has created? Trying to get acquainted with my new surroundings, I drove around and photographed the area. Not surprised, I had more interest in abandoned and neglected buildings than the almost surreal landscape. GroundZero is a painting of a house just over the Idaho/Washington line. The house itself was once loved and lived in, and seems to tell a story to anyone stopping to ponder why it was abandoned. What secrets does it hold? Why did its people leave it to rot back into the ground it came from? It doesn’t scream in angry protest as this bizarrely colored representation seems to, but rather quietly whispers its sad story in a muted grey.
Enter Freud, Surrealism, and the World of Dreams. The Spring of 2009 was a trying time with a schedule seemingly centered around philosophical ponderings. The theme of abandonment and the absence of man, still however prevailed, only morphed further by Freudian fueled dreams of being lost in a man made forest of perfectly aligned trees. Part of the Overwhelming is what grew from this dream. A door to nowhere being the only escape from an unreadable backdrop of obituaries…man is gone, and he’s not coming back.
The spring semester was not only spent researching a term paper, but also photography. I had previously taken a class on photography, however could never seem to get the results I was looking for. I closest I had gotten to the notion of the uncanny was with infrared film. This process is both costly and time consuming. With more and more people turning to digital, finding places to process film can be a daunting task….so I started researching infrared digital photography. I purchased several filters which were supposedly designed to allow the standard digital slr camera to operate in the infrared spectrum. After a month of experimentation I determined that not only were the results disappointing, but were nothing that I could work with. I made the decision…I spent the money I had saved for summer and purchased a camera designed to be used in forensics. This camera only operates within the infrared spectrum.
Over the course of the summer I took hundreds of photographs of abandoned and neglected buildings, equipment, fences, and basically anything where the presence of man had been, and was no more. In previous work I had attempted to get a feeling or atmosphere of a place through the use of black and white photography. While some of the photographs were successful, many were not. I was still seeking to present a viewer with a sense something being familiar…yet not. Of being slightly ‘off’ and unnerving. The uncanny.
Why houses? It started with a reoccurring dream. I don’t know why I have dreams of houses, or why these dream world houses seem like home, just the kind of home you can’t actually leave. The ominous presence of that man made container you call home. You always want to be able to return to it. It keeps you safe and sheltered from the outside world, yet what if you could not leave? The dreams I have are like being on a mental house arrest. The infrared photography gives these real structures the eerie and sometimes surreal feeling of the uncanny, of the houses in my dreams.
Have the dwellers of these structures abandoned them, or did they escape? The stories, I’m sure, all differ greatly. It does however raise questions not only of the particular structures, but of society itself. Why do we abandon what we create? One thing is clear however, and that nature is in a constant state of reclamation. It doesn’t take her long to send in roots to undermine foundations. Precipitation and wind destroys roofs and walls, and plants and animals return it to what it once was…
Photography was not the only thing I worked on this summer. I am still very interested in experimenting with other processes. I spent several weeks working with mixing paint and inks on paper and other support. I also have been working toward combining the photographs I have taken with mixed media techniques.In the piece Forever After I have collaged a photograph into an ink painting. Text from Freud’s notes on The Uncanny hang from the tree.
Nature always prevails, and art is no exception. This summer was not just spent pondering the masses of empty buildings that litter our landscape. I also worked on a few pieces that deal with nature abstractly. Fractal is a mixed media painting, that upon completion looked, to me, like one of the many geysers at Yellowstone National Park.
In the Beginning is another mixed media piece in which I experimented with using old aluminum lithography plates rather than paper (which is what happens when you spend all your summer funds on a camera)!
Working watercolors, inks and paints quickly in the sun resulted in The Origin of Things. I have found that the nautilus, as well as other natural objects (bones, fossils, branches) reoccur throughout work that doesn’t deal with the uncanny. Working in this manner Has helped me to loosed up a bit on my painting…which I am hoping will translate into the acrylics I am currently working on.
Presentation Fall 2009 Art 507
Down a Poisonous Path<br /> Acrylic on Canvas<br />
The Space WithinMixed Media with Artist Book<br />