It’s been a long time since I’ve been been lost in the woods; I know all the local haunts too well, and know enough to bring a compass or be very careful without if I ever venture into strange territory. And yet, I miss the sense of being lost. I remember the very first day I learned to ride my bicycle. This was long before the age of helicopter parents, when children were free and forgotten between the hours of sunrise and sunset. I set out, un-helmeted (not even sure bike helmets existed back then) on my own, wobbling along a small paved web of suburban sprawl. Back in those days, even government housing was built with personality, and while the home designs did repeat, they at least varied in design, materials and orientation. All of this lent a sense of adventure as I took random turns to the right, then left and left again, wheeling myself to destinations unknown. For a moment, as I realized that I had no idea which street I’d come from, I teetered on the edge of the realm of ‘here be dragons’, until, much too soon, I pedalled myself onto a familiar street, thus ending the experiment.
My woodland walks were once like that too. York Regional Forests are all, by their location, flanked with ‘main streets’, east and west, north and south. Some of them busy highways with a drone and hum that echoes across the soundboard of the sky, and others are wide strips of gravel flanked by the type of estate home I can’t even begin to dream about. Either way, while it’s possible, in fact, easy, to become disoriented, it’s pretty much impossible to become dangerously lost (although at least once, a dog walker used her cell-phone to call in a emergency rescue—personally, I think she was just too lazy to puzzle things out on her own). Knowing my margin of safety, I made a game of taking random trails, just for the thrill of sensation, tame and bordered as it was, of being ‘lost’ if only for a moment, and the joy to be have in the discovery of territories heretofore unknown.
By now, I’ve explored the local forest trails to the point of redundancy; not even the faintest deer path takes me to parts unknown, so it’s refreshing to find that a new art project I’ve undertaken recreates that lost joy of discovery.
I had, while slogging through a bigger project (which turned out, btw, to be an unmitigated disaster) the strong need to ‘finish’ something. The diminutive format of the ACEO (exactly 2.5”x3.5”) provided a level of frugality in both time and materials that exactly reproduces the safety of the ‘bounded forest’. It allows me to explore, experiment, even get a little lost without taking any real risk in investment. It is a format where I can allow a free flow of ideas, and follow them through to multiple conclusions in the course of minutes to hours, but never days on end. By allowing myself the luxury of exploration, I have, in so doing, managed to surprise myself.
Hand of Man is one of those surprises. I had no idea where I was going with this one, except as a graphic black and white study. That day, I had been hiking in the North Tract, York Regional Forest. It is not the prettiest tract by far; whenever I go there, there is something of a disturbing feel imposed on me by the landscape. It still very much bears the stamp of it’s origins as a disturbed ecosystem, reforested land. The blow sand exposed by 19th century deforestation lies exposed on every wide trail, trees grow sparsely, neatly planted in rows. I went there to catch the last of the golden tamaracks, but they’d already shed their needles. So it’s no surprise that in the evening (yep, I do most of them from the comfort of my bed with a good book at my side) I began penning the stark barren tamaracks. Being on yupo, a slippery, shiny ‘paper’, I knew it was prone to smearing and set it aside to dry. When next I picked it up, twenty minutes later, I left a large an obvious thumbprint. After a moment of dismay, I gleefully began ‘thumb-painting’ the card with the still tacky ink. The result was both disturbing in tone, and wonderful in success. Will I do a series, or a larger work, or will I abandon this as a ‘one off’? I don’t know, and I don’t presume to know. In my 365 Art Card Project I am only committed to further discovery, as I have once again found my way into terra incognito, the land of ‘here there be dragons, and parts unknown.
PS. so far I’ve been dumping my 365 Art Card Project into a Picassa Album. I’m not sure if I want to continue that, or just display selections as they arrive here, with text, or, well, anything else. Here’s the first few on Picassa; as I go on I’m seeing themes, techniques, styles develop, but in the meantime, by the nature of the project, it’s a really mixed bag.