Looking back at my early art helps me remember who I was, and who I am. It validates my artistic choices now and reminds me that I’ve always been interested in life, beauty, truth, pain, death, and hope. Here’s a look back at my first large scale art installation.
Back in July 2006, I was studying art at Central Michigan University. I was a double major in graphic design and sculpture. This summer semester I was signed up for an independent study for sculpture and my professor/advisor, who taught me so much about art, Margaret Ware, had an interesting opportunity.
There was an alternative school in Mt. Pleasant that was open to an art installation in its pine tree forest. I jumped at the opportunity to work on a large scale and headed out to inspect the area in question. When I arrived I noticed a few things. First, that pine forests grow in eerily straight rows. It looked like the perfect place for a horror movie. No joke. Second, that someone had been using the forest as a dumping ground for old tires. There were some obstacle courses elsewhere on the property, so they were likely connected to that, but it was still pretty surprising.
The tires seemed to be a good opportunity to explore a new idea I recently learned about in the art world: wrapped objects. Think Christo and Jeanne-Claude. I went back to my apartment and started sketching concepts. I decided I would make five stacks of tires, coordinating with five large scale, loose canvas paintings, representing, birth, early-life, mid-life, late-life, and death. The stacks would increase, then decrease in height, with the tallest being in the center mid-life spot. Each painting was 5x10’ in size and grommets were added to the corners to hang from the pines.
When I returned, I got to stacking and wrapping. I used a cream colored cotton fabric with natural twine. Then I cleared out the remaining tires and started hanging the paintings.
I left installation day feeling pretty good about how it went, but I was curious how it would hold up. I also knew that the deterioration would be part of the fun and a continuation of the idea of cycles. I went back for more photos after four weeks and was pleased to see the wrapped fabric settled into all the little nooks of the tires from rain. Pine needles and dirt had gathered, and some spiders had moved in. All of the canvases were still hanging and in pretty good shape. I liked it even better than on installation day.
The next time I returned it was fall, and the installation had been mostly destroyed. Somewhat by the weather, but also by vandalism.
And so it ended, as it began, as a pine forest full of tires. Cycles proved to be more poetic that I had intended. The five stages I represented in life, also became true of this art, in a much more truncated timeframe. We all return to where we began, and there is beauty in each and every stage. Even the painful parts.
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Beauty is everywhere.