I haven’t been able to do much of my own work these days, obligations and various issues have kept me out of my studio, but very recently, in the small moments of solitude I’ve managed to keep, I’ve started to explore the amazingly beautiful world of pollen and the pollen loads that honeybees collect, carry and store in their hives. Not too long ago, a new friend and colleague of mine, LW (that would be Lori Weidenhammer, the mistress of all things bee, ie. Madame Beespeaker) and I, feverishly examined (and drooled over) a rare book by Dorothy Hodges, the artist, beekeeper and researcher. Written in the 1950’s, it’s a collection of exquisite drawings of pollen grains, plus a 120-plant color chart of honeybee pollen loads. The color charts are so rich and enticing. Who knew that pollen came in so many colors? Lori did, but I didn’t. So for me, this book is proving to be yet another priceless learning experience. Hodges used Windsor Newton watercolors for her color charts; the swatches are hand-tipped and only 200 copies of the book were printed. This is a rare book and a delicious pleasure to explore!
I’m recreating the color swatches that Hodges made and I’ve tried a variety of different media, but so far, the buttery and rich Schminke soft pastels are my favorite.
When I first started working with the red rose petals in January of 2010, (cf. Withdrawn: scribing Nancy for that project) I looked for other ways of using and documenting the roses beyond the scribing and tattooing of the petal surface. I explored the petals as a possible drawing medium, to see what kinds of marks the rose dye could make. I filled several long rolls of drawing vellum with ‘rose skids’ (each petal crushed and smashed and dragged against the surface of the paper). Using every single petal of each rose – including the yellowish stamens and pistels – the work also served to document/present each rose in an alternate manner.
I posted 2 blogs on these rose skids early on here (see entries for January 4 and 6th, 2011, “Side Things” and More Rose Skids”). I’ve taken that initial work a step further and used it as the space to explore new drawings. Flowers have been used by some pretty heavy-weight artists (just to name a few I admire – Georgia O’Keefe, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Cy Twomby). So, I’ve acknowledged the precedence set by the above artists directly in my drawings. This I have done as text scribbles. Of course, I’ve also added Jean-Luc Nancy’s name since I’ve been appropriating his work for almost two years now.
There are no ageing bodies in Greek classical art. Eternal youth, proportioned to perfection, graces the corridors of that ancient history, and interestingly enough, does it not continue to haunt the contemporary mind? It was with relief, that I found a poetic fragment by Sappho that actually speaks of the ageing body. (text fragments of Sappho; Carson, A. 2002).
“…pinioned…mortised…weighted down…” A few words plucked from the subsequent paragraph of Nancy’s essay wherein he describes the space in Caravaggio’s painting – heavy and sombre, the imprisonment of grief, the immobility of death. Yet this is death beautifully written – in Nancy’s poetic mix of philosophy and prose.
The M-Webster dictionary gives the following definitions for threshold
“…a physical marker, like the plank, stone or piece of timber that lies under a door. The end or boundary, the place or point of entering or beginning; the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced. A level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not.”
The point of interest for me is that portion of that definition that speaks of the “end or boundary, the point of entering or beginning,” that ambiguous point that is both beginning and end, true and not true, real and unreal – and one which can be considered physically, psychologically or symbolically.
I think perhaps Nancy, with his poetic play on words, intimates the possibilities of the word – threshold – and places our involvement with the image in these multiple realms of experience, for (I have found) Nancy never leaves a word with one bound meaning, but enjoys the layered and shifting sense that each word can invoke.
Here’s a wax drawing that uses everything – the spaces between words, the words themselves and the spaces between lines. The text is a fragment from the essay “The Visitation” by Jean-Luc Nancy (The Ground of the Image). Nancy discusses the theory of western religious painting as representation of Christian thought, but also talks about its place within a wider context of the image as art – beyond content, beyond memorialization. I am fascinated by his statement:
“Art never commemorates. It is not made to preserve a memory, and whenever it is set to work in a monument, it does not belong to the memorializing aspect of the work.”
I have the honour of working with a video artist, Cindy Mochizuki on a project that explores and expands upon my text-based drawing/inscribing project Withdrawn: scribing Nancy . We are taking the project into an entirely new direction for me, video. I think of this direction, this process, these video objects as ones which engage the viewer in a multi-sensorial experience of space: the projector, the screen, the expanse of floor and wall, the dark, and then the light that fills the space between these objects, the sounds, the flickering images and the simultaneous distension and restraint of time, combine to push the viewer over the threshold and into the space of the image:
” The image throws in my face an intimacy that reaches me in the midst of intimacy – through sight, through hearing, through the very meaning of words…the seduction of images, their eroticisim, is nothing other than their availability for being taken, touched by the eyes, the hands, the belly, or by reason and penetrated. The gaze impregnated with color, the ear with sonority.”