During the past month or so I've been enjoying the collision of several hair-brained ideas. First, I've been thinking about the upcoming, February invitational art show Art From the Ashes which is being sponsored by Jasper Magazine. This exhibit and literary publication will commemorate the sesquicentennial of Sherman's burning of our town during his infamous "March to the Sea". I attended four lectures presented by expert authors and historians. Surprisingly, I've found the topic most inspirational. Lots and lots of work has come from this.
Perhaps it is because the focus for this exhibition is NOT on the famous people involved. As artists, poets, and writers, we've been asked to consider the marginalized people, the ordinary citizens and folks that lived through the night when cotton bales went up in flames and the morning brought piles of rubble in which only brick chimneys and iron nails remained of the former structures.
(Above: Pecan shavings ... after our 100+ year old pecan tree had to be cut down.)
The inspirations for the upcoming event collided with inspiration from my own backyard that was ignited when we were forced to take down the 100+ year old pecan tree. I hated doing it but most of the tree was already dead. What remained standing threatened the house. Well, there was a pile of pecan tree shavings. Most was turned into mulch but some went into an electric roasting pan I bought at Bill Mishoe's auction for $7.50. (The lid was bent and didn't fit ... but otherwise it looked brand new.)
Honestly, I didn't know what I was doing at the time. I just boiled up shavings in water, soaked threads and miscellaneous vintage fabric in the results, and wasn't particularly impressed with the results. Later I read India Flint's Eco Colour. It was an amazing book but I still haven't the faintest idea what I'm doing. The book, however, gave me some rudimentary knowledge about alum being used as a mordant and that I ought not use the same pots and pans for cooking. The book let me know that different parts of plants can produce different colors ... that different times of the year and different soil conditions can produce different results ... that some plants don't really produce a color at all ... and, most importantly, there was no mention of almost any plant growing in my backyard. Basically ... I don't need to know much of anything. Experimenting is a perfectly fine thing to do, especially since I'm not trying to reproduce any particular result! I can just "go for it" !
(Above: Steve in our backyard.)
Conceptually, I started thinking about vintage garments stained with the colors of Columbia's soil ... Art from the Ashes ... visible indication of what it might have been like to experience a night of invading troops, drunken marauders, and flames spreading on the high winds of a winter night. My mind imagined distressed, vintage sleepwear and undergarments. I own these materials ... and now was the time to experiment with plants from my own, downtown Columbia backyard.
(Above: Two iron cauldrons and a roasting pan ... filled with 1) magnolia, 2) kutzu and oleander, and 3) rosemary.)
By this time, I'd acquired two antique iron cauldrons from Bill Mishoe's auction. It's been so much fun to "play witch" during the month of October, brewing up the plants in my own backyard. I also cut down Steve's two "pet weeds", which we learned were poke berry.
The poke berry turned fabric an exciting fuchsia ... which mostly didn't stay pink. Everything else turned sort of black. Eventually, all my separate solutions were mixed together. Yet, black and shades of grey aren't too bad if one is trying to create a distressed look that emulates a night of fires! Because everything was so dull, I brought out a cast iron lidded pot that was already starting to rust. (Thanks, Mom!) I'm good at rusting! Just add white vinegar, sea salt, water, and old rusty things ... like nails ... my very favorite symbol. Soon, I was getting the distressed look I wanted. I'm still at it. I'm hoping that these garments and damask tablecloth will inspire a larger installation. Who knows? It is during the process that the bigger picture occurs to me ... so I'll just keep going!
Into the vat of magnolia dye I threw some scraps onto which I'd previously rusted nails. I liked the results and started ironing them ... and then scorching the fabric. Eight pieces were finished, matted, and are now shrink wrapped. Will they be part of the Art from the Ashes show? Probably not. They were simply "accidental" pieces that got made along the way. I like them. They truly show the "burning of Columbia" in a visceral way ... abstracted, symbolic, distressed, and now part of my inventory! Below are the others!
(Above: Afterward II. Scrap of silk with rusted nails, magnolia dye, and scorching. Matted 20" x 16".)