I’m pleased to announce that I am working on new artworks for a site-specific show, called Through Your Eyes, in the spring at Unterhammer im Karlstal.
It took me a little while to get going with the work, but I’m finally getting all my ideas unified into one body, which dovetails comfortably with the work I was already doing. Since it’s a site-specific show, it’s important to say something about the venue and my reactions to it. I’ve visited this lovely place several times now and there are two things that continue to impress me.
One is a phenomenon I’ve experienced many times, traveling and living abroad. I’m not sure if there is a word for it, but it is the feeling that a place is very familiar and yet foreign at the same time. Unterhammer is a former nineteenth-century ironworks foundry which has been converted into a health center with medical offices, cafe, and event space. The small complex is in a valley and feels like it is in the middle of nowhere, even though it is only 30 minutes from my house. Every time I walk in the woods around it, I can’t help but think of the Hocking Hills of Southern Ohio, with its large boulders and coniferous trees flourishing every where. Then I remember that I’m not in Ohio. I’m in Germany. I have no personal history and know little of the local history. What I’m left with is rudiments — forms, colors, sensations — when I remind myself that the feeling of the familiar is deceiving me.
The second thing that strikes me every time I visit is the traces of human activity everywhere in a place that seems otherwise pristine. I think these ideas came to me because, early on in the project, I happened to be reading The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert. A major theme in the book is the long history of humans altering their environment in ways that disrupt countless ecosystems. Germany is a populous country — 80 million living in a space the size of Montana — and it has had people living in it for thousands of years, a couple of hundred of those following the industrial revolution. Surely, this pristine natural place has been altered and reshaped in countless ways, from the mining of iron, to the diversion of water sources. Today, every forest in Germany is carefully logged and maintained and this one is no different.
So my work for the show has bounced back and forth between wanting to capture it as a natural place and wanting to capture the manmade aspects.
Right now I’m pushing the abstraction with a series of mixed media works featuring gouache. I’ve carried the mysterious markings from the logs into these abstract works. Because their meanings are unknown to me, I’ve titled them “Ciphers.”
The last two are connected to this image I captured while walking the 3-4 mile trail around the ironworks complex:
Soon I will also post about the oil paintings I’ve begun, spun out of this exploration, so stay tuned!