Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wyoming Dispatch: The Petrified Forest and Reaction

As our days at Jentel are nearing an end, we residents took a spontaneous trip to the Dry Creek Petrified Forest. It's one of numerous petrified forests in the state, but the only one I've gotten a chance to see. It's the remains of swamp trees - the high desert of Wyoming used to be a swamp - and before that, it was under a very large sea. In some ways, as you look across the undulating landscape, you can imagine it.

Most of the forest is underground and un-excavated, and what viewers see are the remains of stumps. Only one large piece of a megasequoia has been unearthed.

I kept thinking about these petrified trees as artifacts of time. Dan at one point joked that petrified trees don't burn, to which Jennifer countered that the exception to that was coal, reminding me of my own artist book on the subject. 

After our visit to Devils Tower, I had been thinking about how, after the exposure to its grandeur (not to mention its cinematic history), I personally, couldn't make work about it. Most of my work involves constructing narratives that are implied onto the landscape, and I just didn't feel right doing that to such a sacred site to so many indigenous people. And it doesn't feel respectful to use their narratives (not really my style anyway, I'd prefer to have total authorship). Besides, anything I'd do would end up being seen as some Close Encounters reference anyway.

But I was drawn to these petrified trees. Jentel has some ornamental petrified wood chunks in the driveway.

I'm not sure where they're from, though I'm certain it's somewhere in Wyoming. Once we were home, I grabbed some of my paper and a box of oil pastels left by a previous artist (thank you whoever!) and went down and made some rubbings of their surfaces.

The paper I selected was some I'd actually had leftover from grad school, when I was still figuring out how to make quality watermarks. These are watermarked with the image of tree, tests for The Ghost Trees that I was never completely satisfied with.

I'm not sure how much of the watermark you can see above - that's the best I could do for backlighting currently. As I was making them, I couldn't help think of Melanie's projects, and hope that this isn't stepping on her toes. I'm not sure what I think of them right now, but I like the idea of the tree hidden in the stone, and interacting with transformed trees. As I was making them, I mentioned to Jennifer that I had to make these here, as I didn't access to large chunks of petrified wood back home, and then I remembered the Sonoma Petrified Forest. Have to make it up there soon. So maybe these are proofs, tests, or maybe they are complete. I have to think about it.

I'm really going to miss my fellow residents. As I write this, my studio door is open, and so is Dan's and I can hear him singing "Your Body is A Wonderland." Earlier he and Jennifer were singing along to Johnny Cash for their karaoke debut this weekend. When we all first got here, our studio doors were shut, we were even not sure about the rules of knocking and interrupting each other. Much has changed.

1 comment:

Donna said...

Beautiful Michelle!