“Zuster Sweostor Systir”, a companion show to my project from this past spring and summer “Mater Matrix Mother and Medium” , opens on First Thursday, Feb. 4th 2010 at Ohge Ltd. Gallery, Seattle. The show features a film made in collaboration with Ian Lucero, created out of Zoe Scofield and Morgan Henderson’s performance from MMMM, performance artifacts, as well as photographs created in collaboration with Jennifer Zwick, performance photos by Juniper Shuey, as well as paper quilts and objects and photos created in collaboration with Paul Margolis that came out of my continued fascination with the fabricated woods we find around Seattle.
MMMM involved me in highly collaborative relationships with several artists, the Seattle public and, in a very real sense, a small patch of urban forest. This sister show, coming a year after I began roving about hidden patches of forest all over Seattle, is a way to share these collaborations, these fertile offshoots that continued to instigate new work for me long after the very public part of MMMM was completed.
During my six weeks of residency at Camp Long in Seattle, spending long hours crocheting a fabricated river into the trees, I spent a great deal of time in quiet, face pressed to bark, watching ants travel, ducks tend to ducklings and watching small changes take place every day in my pond. A giant Barred Owl watched me, and it all felt very viscerally wild. But in between the quiet was the blast of horns from ships, a low hum of cars on the interstate and the weekly visit of the grounds keep with a leaf blower. This forest, like most in Seattle — save for a few trees in Seward Park, has nothing to do with the deep mystery of the forest that was once here. It is fabricated, tended, groomed, minded, the old pond filled with a hose when it gets too low. An early photograph in the lodge shows the landscape barren, stripped of its organic past. Zoe Scofield, on an early site visit, astutely observed how like a stage set it all was, and we intended to draw that out. The theatricality of the park is like that of a 18th century folly, a ruin, at once referencing a romantic vision of nature as well as the human longing to experience something more sublime. I felt something of that sublime, following that great owl that watched me midday, I went off trail until I stood below it. And when its head glided around so that it could glare at me, warn me, I felt a jolt of instinct or electricity. In the fabricated, tiny forests we tend, there is still buried the pull the human animal has always felt, to go back. As the summer came to ending, and I cut down the river, folded it up, I came back to my site over and over again as the forest turned to fall. With my son, I sifted for skeletal leaves on my hands and knees, just as we had sifted through dead leaves at the bottom of the pond looking for salamander egg sacks, finding the perfect lacy forms like Scandinavian lace discarded after a flood. I wanted to sew the forest together into a blanket, organize it all, to prepare for the winter, the leaves the same color as my hair, everything going red to brown. We found nurse logs feeding Turkey Tail fungus like crocheted ruffles, and orange mushrooms under which we buried a mouse. On our hands and knees, it wasn’t urban recreation, but fairy tale. I collected my hair and Hazel’s hair, had it spun into yarn, and we each took on our roles in a landscape both out of our reach and right there with us, as organic as it is artificial.