A While in Two Worlds
I want to know how the past lives in the present. When I use cut-outs from old books and maps, I'm aware that their meaning is from another time period, so that meaning therefore lives in an altered way in a contemporary context. What does this engraving of the gears of a cotton gin mean to us now? An what happens in our eyes and minds when it's paired with the spiral forms from a diagram of the cell structure of the cotton plant? What does an 1890 map fragment mean in a world where we have GPS? These physical paper artifacts are folded into who we are now, yet we are forgetting our connection to them. I am constantly foraging for peculiar old books — like a hunter, or a botanist. I find disused knowledge in diagrams, charts, engravings. Part of my goal is to make people see the value of old printed imagery, which depended for its existence on the filter of a human mind and hand, rather than on the camera lens. By recontextualizing these antique images within drawn and painted worlds, I aim to generate paintings that feel dislocated in time. I bury and excavate, wander between flesh, feather, metal, bone, rock.
The invitation to make something in this landscape was a challenge and a gift. This site once churned with noise, smoke and steam. The earth was ripped open, lime transported and transformed into cities far away. Now, the stillness remains. There was once one last blast of rock and one final hammer swung. Painting rocks felt primal and absurd — a violation of the eons they're made of. A momentary flash of color before they return to their trajectory.
There's nothing I can't find under there.
Voices in the trees, the missing pages of the sea.
Everything but sleep.
And the night is a river bridging,
the speaking and the listening banks,
a fortress, undefended and inviolate.
There's nothing that won't fit under it:
fountains clogged with mud and leaves,
the houses of my childhood
Excerpted from Pillow, by Li-Young Lee