Friday, September 4, 2015

Arctic Fog: Mixed Media Painting

Arctic Fog, mixed media, 19 x 27"

This painting could be called a collage, since it's constructed of different parts. First, there's the black pet screen that was stapled to painted stretcher bars. Once there was a scene of river under night sky, including a number of stars cut from aluminum flashing. This was cut open, losing a few stars and a lot of painted water, clouds, and fish. Next, I painted the bird's eye view of the tundra in acrylic on paper. Then I gessoed a thin rectangle on a remnant of denim overalls leg, as a ground for five loons, painted in acrylic on an ambiguous, pinkish fog.

The denim was stitched to the pet screen, using red cotton embroidery perle. That looked ok, but when I held the tundra scene over it, I felt such a need for more red. I used a sheet of photo block, because it was the right color and also let light through, giving some luminosity. The bottom was then stitched to the denim using red French knots. The sides were stitched to the pet screen using linen warp, and to the top using waxed cord. It was finished with six small fringes of red, green, black, and blue cotton perle.

This kind of art piece makes me uncomfortable, which I think is a good process for an uncomfortable topic like climate change in the Arctic. Beginning with destruction, the cutting of the painted screen, sets the stage for expressing some positive possibilities. Yes, some things are broken. Yet loons, who want nothing more than to live their Arctic lives, are still swimming. The fog? Well, it suggests the fog we're in—we who are so much less innocent and more destructive than the loons. The view of the tundra contains the paradox between beauty and danger, and it implies the perspective we need to steer a different course.

This piece received a lot of attention when I hung it at Sebastopol Gallery. I appreciate all that people saw in it, and the emotion and care they expressed in its presence.