2022. Acrylic, charcoal, collage on canvas. 12 x 12 in.
The forests of California have not had an easy time of it in recent years, have they? Fire, drought, blight, flood, mudslides. Encroachment by humans. Centuries of overlogging.
But forests were not in my mind when I began this piece. It was a canvas I’d prepared with a light texture some time in the past and had sitting around, and I decided to try a new variation on the collage style in which I’ve been working. I stained the canvas with cadmium yellow light, then rubbed on a random pattern of transparent blue-green with a sponge.
And I think it was that ground preparation that, more than anything, pulled the image in the direction of a naturalistic dimensionality, hinting at the depth of a landscape. Which is not, generally, something I’m going for.
The works in collage over this last year have challenged my preferences of pictorial depth and subject matter. The early collages were generally fully nonobjective or at least highly abstracted, with a flat picture plane: all shapes and elements on or near the surface, with no or little illusion of depth or form. And they were largely without “subject” beyond the purely poetic. (See, for instance, here, here, and here.)
But as I’ve worked with this collage technique I’ve found – and accepted – paintings that venture beyond these preferences. I’ve at times been perplexed by the diversity of the collection as a whole, while slowly coming to a deeper understanding of what holds them together. And I’ll be posting more on that, with examples, in the future.
So, you see, I did not try very hard to avoid the landscape or scenic dimensionality of “Forest”. I’m cool with what feels right, categories be damned. And I liked the charcoal/burnt tree trunks, the could-be-wire could-be-foliage curly lines, the big blue-green transparent boulder-pond, or however you personally see any of it. And most of all I liked the little ghostly mushroom, which I found I could not live without. Despite the stresses, our forests are not terminally discouraged, after all.