Old Bones and Reliquaries

As we approach the midpoint of the year and the passages project (which I’m now calling a year-long study), I want to touch on some of my discoveries through this process.

I’ve always been fascinated with the lore of ghosts towns, lonesome cowboys, tropes of abandonment and resilience; the overwhelming silence that occurs after some type of shock. I can feel these themes manifesting in these studies (even if not representationally), and I love the direction the project is taking. The studies are starting to feel dreamier and indicate stories.

A few paintings back, I noticed this really beautiful juxtaposition from when I did the line work on a part of a building where some cloudscape had bled in. The random cloud pooling (which I would normally just paint over) appeared delicate like lichen or mold: the type of material that begins the process of reparations. So I tried leaving the grounding body vacant and just outlining the object using the mucky watercolor in a dip pen with very light pressure, sometimes even breaking the line. To me, the imagery gives a post-apocalyptic meditative feeling: the sun will continue to rise even when we won’t.

Further, I’ve been considering to add bits of trees, bushes or vines into the mix as the sky is increasingly blocked with them. Paired with urban decay (of which our state has much), I’ve been thinking about how the Earth will clean itself eventually, though I think my idea is less about urban decay and more about earth reclamation or just the natural order of things.

I am not disappointed.

On any particular day with a sweeping sky, I imagine the landscape without the industrial buildings, wires, automobiles; I squint high up in the sky to see only the tops of trees to connect myself to ancestors and their response to a similar sky: what stories would the sky have told them? And more than stories, what information? For millennia, people communicated with the sky for their very existence, but today we hardly check in. Is the sky lonely?

A long line of dreamers precede me. This study alleges how so few give credence to the act of dreaming: a capitalist attitude to dreaming provokes a sense of worthlessness, but without dreamers how can we make progress? This thesis steered me to seek and investigate the pensive characteristics of the Romantics and Tonalists, specifically Turner, Whistler, Wyeth amongst others.

With its emphasis on the imagination and emotion, Romanticism emerged as a response to the disillusionment with the Enlightenment values of reason and order … In Romantic art, nature—with its uncontrollable power, unpredictability, and potential for cataclysmic extremes—offered an alternative to the ordered world of Enlightenment thought.

Metropolotin Museum of Art

Maybe the ghost buildings stand as metaphor for the unfettered displacement of cultural practices, much like the industrial revolution, automated transportation, and – most recently – the internet. As we shift quickly into the new world of artificial intelligence, how will culture respond? I can’t help but think about the romanticists of the 18th and 19th century where people and technology struggle for relevance. How many of us are reduced to empty human shapes?

This study thus far has taught me innumerable lessons, specifically about adapting to explore new ideas as they come.

  • Yule:I discovered I didn’t want my “hand” in the date because I was laying too much judgment on myself; started using the leftover palette watercolor with a vintage, adjustable date stamp.
  • Imbolc: I simplified the palette to respond to the sun’s waxing position.
  • Ostara: I started collecting leftover palette color into a tiny jar to use with a dip pen to make the thinnest, crispest lines.
  • Beltane: I worked on removing brushstrokes from certain areas of sky; to build smooth transitions, simplified grounding forms; started more intentional color mixes, removed color from “grounding items” to invoke ghost objects.

I have started to think about if I will show these somewhere, and if so: how? I thought maybe I could highlight eight pieces from each period (eight periods) totalling 64 pieces on display, somehow corresponding with the theme of the boxes and the adjustments made within each period. To encompass the concept of this being a ritualized project, I would likely share selected notes and sketches that highlight the adaptations and concerns of a life grounded in both analog and digital formats.

Thankfully, I have plenty of time to think about it.


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