So I’m thinking about how do we explore different ways to think about wilderness? I love the way wildness appears in the concrete cracks in the city (especially when people add seeds). Buster Simpson talked about this, too, and created some wild water conduits, obstacles to traffic, in Belltown. Bringing the nurse log into the city. Actually being in the relatively tame part of a wilderness corridor is different from the wild. There are so many controls, not the least of which is the project going on outside my very door: making the road wider for larger motorhomes which come to the park. Will these bubbles which need the roads and asphalt pads providing self contained living quarters be the future or will we use dirigibles to green skyscrapers with wind turbines and hike to the wilderness right outside our door? How can we convert space to wilderness? Other controls are these astonishing viewing platforms, built by engineers to make the awesome accessible. It’s the deconstructive turn. If we are part of nature, how can we live in a dynamic symbiosis instead of command and conquer?
I walked in the rain today and saw an amazing moss/lichen on rock. Still have to look it up. The growing things looked happy to be misted by the precipitation: little tubes? extended up instead of stressed and shriveled by the heat. Moria helped me paint moss on the SJSU nursing mural, probably gone now. I realized on early winter walks in 1989 that she was painting northwest mosses, not the ones I’d ever seen in California. Her technique was great, and I should play with it in fooling around with the Chinese landscape stuff.
I love the feel of the damp on my skin. It’s the world of Totoro, Miyazaki’s masterpiece about the spirits of nature. They’re scary and friendly, not good nor bad. The puddles and drips. The whooshes of wind in the elevations. We no longer have enough language for these sounds and qualities of nature. New words of our bubble universe have replaced them in our lexicons.
I spoke with Jennette today: she’s a plant scientist, earlier in the season working to evaluate the impact of invasive plants in the wilderness. She said biggest impact is where pack animals go. Interesting: it’s so 19th century to have “expeditions.” Grasses are a real problem. People, too, keep irritating the areas by mowing beside the roads. Now she’s working in propagation for restoring areas and interpretation. I wanted to engage her about how do you get people interested and thinking differently about wilderness, nature, etc. Then we ended up talking about art techniques. Since I love talking shop, it was fun. That may be one of the truly rewarding aspects of this residency for me, discussing the pros and cons of technical issues. I think I only discuss these at any length with Barbara and Ann.
Regarding land use: I still get irritated by the Jeffersonian farm dream brought about by suburbia. Issaquah developers draining the water table, creating huge mansions which fill up the lots so there is no yard left. Why aren’t these people living in condos?
Ref: Implode the Dome and the Landscape Tale (it’s amazing to think I did that piece 13 years ago and now Paul Allen is building the south Lake Union development he wanted – my mother would be so exasperated, but she was gone by the end of the installation’s duration).
I promised I would link Dan Corson’s piece about the River. I am so glad I got to see it projected in the side of the [former] Bon Marche parking garage, even though it wasn’t up for as long as originally planned
Today I talked with David Williams, art instructor at Sedro Woolley High School and made an appointment to see him later about giving a presentation to his students. They are just learning about painting, and he was enthusiastic about my discussing how my work fits into (or not) particular traditions. I left him with a copy of my slide lecture (hope I don’t regret this), and he was very organized in mapping out the lesson plan. At the end of our meeting, he spoke of his interest in printmaking. He is clearly methodical in his care of students; he must be a skilled printmaker with this talent. Charles Beall had contacted him and Dave had looked at my site; so he was familiar with what I’m doing. What a well organized person!
I’ve got to remember to ask Jim to bring more cards so I can give some to the students. I always think they need to know about marketing. People are actually picking them up at the center!
I also visited with Cindy at the park headquarters in Sedro Woolley to check out the equipment but the lecture takes so long to load, I wasn’t really able to do a preview. I will try to again on Monday when I go to the high school and I posted this on the website calendar. I had to upload the page in town because internet access is so slow up here. Somehow, I can’t believe my text only page would be a problem, but there you have it. Something’s timing out....
Got groceries. I’m so grateful for the Skagit coop because it’s an easy stop for me to get fabulous local produce.
Went over to the Institute’s Learning Center and left some of my cards, watched the children, who were very well behaved, get their prep for the first outing. Several seemed pretty trail smart. Poked around and took some more photos on the way back, especially of the clouds and the colors of the trees.
Big leaf maples: they are iridescent yellow and gold, with iron red edges as they dry out, just before they fall. Then the ground becomes covered with the rust color, but the leaves keep glowing.
I’m thinking of Chinese landscape approaches: the show last summer at the Seattle Asian Art museum and looked at the notes I took. I reread the Gary Snyder poem, “Endless Streams and Mountains: Ch’i Shan Wu Chin,” about the Chinese landscape painting he looked at in the museum. I thought also about the contemporary Chinese artists I met a few years ago, the landscape painters and their gorgeous catalogues. The work had traditional qualities, but was very calligraphic and narrative in a much more abstract approach. So I’m thinking again how do I explain that what I do isn’t pointillist? Impressionist and even post impressionist painters are still interested in issues around illusionistic representation, the play of light on surfaces. I’m much more conservative in many ways, more pre-enlightenment, to focus on what I know about, or think I know about, my experiences and cultural lore (sometimes this is science, by which I don’t mean it isn’t true: all lore has some kind of truth, and science has the merit of being verifiable), not exclusively on reproducing the positive and negative spaces of seeing. This approach is why I like diagrams, maps, and let photographs do the rest. I like exploring or referring to the schema of the system.
So how does this relate to Chinese landscape painting? Some of these narrative works have wonderful textural variety to describe trees, rocks buildings, water, but are so abstract that I don’t feel I’m looking at a scene, but rather a narrative. And, in fact some of these pieces were narratives, representing fantastic tales of traveling to the moon or the sky. Since I’m not a filmmaker, but can have some affinities with the narrative goals of many filmmakers, I want to figure this problem out more.
Jim and I went to the North Cascades Institute Learning Center but it wasn’t open. We talked with a staff person who said the workshops that weekend had been canceled. Mushrooms and astronomy, canceled? So I’ll try to come again tomorrow. There is supposed to be mountain school with elementary school children then, and I’m sure someone will be there.
I finished the labels and put them up on the wall for the artwork. It’s a gallery now in the Visitor’s Center, although I personally preferred to keep the art to the side. The fireplace is so grand and the light coming in from the glass is so important for the sense of the place that it seems a shame to put those panels in the way. If they are really worried about the feng hsui of the place (jokes were made), I guess a remodel with a more woodland aspect instead of “ancient hall” would be in order.
This weather is really impressive, because it’s not windy. There’s a bit of a chill in the air and the cirrus clouds foretell the wet front moving in. But it’s not yet crisp, and it’s actually warm midday in the sun. We went to the Gorge Creek waterfall overlook where you can see the dam which supplies the Gorge power plant. It’s an accessible path with an extension for hikers.
Yesterday we walked around a small interpreted trail at Newhalem. We stood on the suspension bridge for a long while talking about Honneger. When we were nearly through with the trail, Jim wanted to go closer to the water. We could see insects glinting in the sun above the river, countless small ones. Then we thought we saw a salmon jump and waited to be sure--it was huge, possibly 10 pounds but maybe only 8 (I compare them to what we see in the fish market), and I wondered whether it was a king, chinook salmon.
One thing I think most folks I talk to in Seattle forget is that in Newhalem, the elevation is only a few hundred feet (it is the Skagit River here). The road doesn’t close here during the winter because City Light has to have access to the dams and all its equipment. But Rainy Pass is nearly 5000 feet and it gets higher at Washington Pass. That part of Highway 20 does close when winter comes.