Biostrata Residency Week One: Sharktopus

This was the first week of my Biostrata: Cutaway Ecologies artist residency. I am so thankful to be working outside in the Culture Garden at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. Every summer I feel so justified in shirking my work, because, well it’s summertime, and the outside calls to me. This year it’s different because I get to exercise both of my passions, art and nature, all at the same time. I think I’m onto something here.
Shark Octopus Nesting Sculpture_2

This project is all about connection between organisms. I’ll be making three nesting sculptures, each showing a different biome. So, naturally, I started the week off by researching biomes, which are areas of similar climate which house similar animals and vegetation.

Shark Octopus Nesting Sculpture_3

Fun fact: an increase in altitude acts the same as distance from the equator, in terms of which biome you find yourself in.

Tuesday is not only research day, but also design day. I started by choosing the different animals that would be represented throughout the residency, and then made little polymer clay models to get an idea of form.

Fimo maquettes for biostrata sculptures Wm

When I say nesting sculptures, I mean that in the sense of nesting dolls. These will be sculptures within sculptures. The first ecosystem I’m working with is the marine biome, and the first piece represents an apex shark.

The innermost layer will be an aquatic terrarium like you have seen in some of my previous work. It contains a Marimo moss (actually a form of algae) and shows the base of the food chain.

Shark Octopus Nesting Sculpture

Around this is a stone sculpture which shows an octopus or squid type creature, something tentacley that would be delicious to a friendly neighbourhood shark. This acts as skeleton to the skin.

Shark Octopus Nesting Sculpture_1

The skin layer is flexible textile and plastic. When finished, it will be painted with the habitat of the shark: water and those neato underwater rock formations and hydrothermal vents.

He is made up entirely of other creatures and his environment. Without them he would have no substance, and could not go on holding the shape of a shark. We humans are not exempt from this rule either, we are all made of what we eat and live with.

Shark Cotton

This week you can stop by Tuesday-Saturday from 9-5 and see the skin painted, the stone refined and polished, and the whole thing put together. To find out how you can follow along and participate, visit here.

 

Environmental architecture

All of our technology comes from nature. Not only did we creatures build it, but we would be silly to think we are inspired by something other than natural processes. The more we learn about how biology and biosphere work, the more our own advances look like an homage.

My challenge is to show this back and forth in a collection of silk wall quilts. I will borrow inspiration from Saint John architecture, and unlike some of my previous quilts, these will not just be the buildings. These buildings will be overwritten by their naturally occurring counterparts.

Saint John Industrial Landscape_10 architecture, waterfall, water, roof

I chose Saint John because of the breakdown, a sort of reversion to something less strict and geometric.

Saint John Industrial Landscape_8And then I thought, what about the other side of this coin? Don’t we transform nature into architecture?

New HampshireThese views of New Hampshire are begging to morph into buildings and cities.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wonder where we draw the lines between technology and nature. At first glance it seems pretty easy to make the distinction between what is made and what simply occurs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But does anything simply occur? Organisms evolve to adapt to niches put in place by other organisms, and all species have been forced to adapt to the overwhelming changes we’ve made to this planet. We make and change things because of evolved tendencies in our brains. So then maybe everything simply occurs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The lines get blurry when you put your thinking goggles on. Where do you place the line?

Topecol

NatureTrust2012-Green(web)-1

Topecol
Silk and fishing line. 40″ x 12″ x 12″.
© Allison Green 2012, Photos © Jeff Crawford 2012

Textile installation featuring dangling silk with photo-transfer. This piece follows the contours of the topographical map of Minister’s Face preserve on Long Island, New Brunswick. Printed on the surface are photographs of its thriving ecology. The different segments of the ecosystem are inextricably linked. Just like elevations on a map, removing just one slice would completely alter the whole.

On display at the NB Museum in Saint John as part of the Nature of Art of Nature exhibit for the Nature Trust of New Brunswick. Exhibit reopening at UNB Art Centre in Fredericton April 12, 2013.

NatureTrust2012-Green(web)-5 NatureTrust2012-Green(web)-8

Restful stones.

Check it out, my stones have arrived:

Rock On – Spirit Cloth

She has gathered 168 stones since she put out the call on May 11th. How cool is that? And how beautiful that so many people who will never spend time together are spending time doing exactly the same thing. That is a different sort of togetherness than physical presence. I guess I never really realized how many makers there are in the world.

Bidding war.

Once again I need a little help deciding. This time I am choosing a photo, which will be made into a textile (quilt-esque wall-hanging, 32 x 16). Keep in mind it is for a charity art auction at a local restaurant (Isaac’s Way) and therefore has to be saleable. Here are the contenders:

Train Bridge:
This one would make an interesting contrast between hard industrial bridge and soft textile.

Fungus Towers:
Beautiful and woodsy, sharp colours, but maybe not everyone likes fungus?

Riverbed:
Love the atmosphere, but maybe would need to accentuate the colours to give a little more punch.

Sandstone:
Probably the most saleable topic of the bunch, everyone is drawn to the beach. Interesting too because of the emphasis on stone vs. sky, rust vs. blue.

There you have it. I will be chronicling this creation over the next two weeks, and it will then be available for bidding at Isaac’s Way. Please take the opportunity to involve yourself in this piece, vote or comment! You only have ’til Thursday…

Sorry, voting is now over. Thank you everyone! You have chosen Train Bridge :)

Fiddleheads in the riverbed.

I was treasurer of the student council at my college this year, and it was both a rewarding and disappointing experience. I am a fan of accounting-type work (my “day job” in the summer is a hotel night auditor), so that part is fun. However it was awfully hard to get people to participate in our events, what with how much homework we all have. I think the thing I’m most proud of happened at the end of the year, through the hard work of the photography studio head and the student council president.

Our school has partnered with Nature Trust NB, who look after a collection of Nature Preserves all around New Brunswick. These preserves are donated to the Trust, and they do their utmost to insure they are left untouched by man. In cases where the land has already been touched, they endeavour to return it to its natural state.

The idea is to increase awareness about these beautiful places, and instigate public discussion about the need for such refuges. From now until the end of October, the student council will be paying travel expenses for our students to travel to these sites. We are to be inspired by them, and create art that reflects our experience. We will then submit our best pieces to potentially be exhibited at a big gallery in Saint John, under the renowned curatorship of Terry Graff.

The boy and I set out on our first of many trips this past Sunday. We went to James C. Yerxa, which runs right along the Keswick River. We had quite a time finding it as it was unmarked, but our excellent powers of deduction got us there. Even the lady at the pharmacy right down the street had no idea what we were talking about.

We had a lovely time. First stop was a dead beaver. Never seen a beaver up close before. Needless to say this one didn’t try to run away. I’ll spare you the pictures. Later we found about a thousand beaver-chomped tree trunks.

The river was especially sandy on its banks, and there was even a little beach protruding on the far side. We walked over the bridge and found our way to it, then wrote sappy things in the sand.

On the way we encountered what seemed like a wasteland, complete with palettes up trees and rotting lean-tos.

We even found this massive multi-trunk mutant tree.

And this other tree made out of leaves.

But the most inspiring sight for me was the forest of identically watermarked trees. All of last year’s grass had been beaten down in the same direction. The river rose and covered the trees a few feet up, dragging the grass along with the current.

Seemingly in a perfect grid were hundreds of fiddleheads. They sprouted up through the dead grass, looking very much the courageous underdogs.

Another more amusing find was the little cluster of signs near the back of the forest. “Stay on the trail” when there was no trail at all. “Caution” beside a grassy field. And most absurd of all was this one below, with no explanation in sight.

This weekend coming up we will be going to either Sugar Island:

or Pickerel Pond:

I am a little torn. Pickerel Pond is much larger and seems more interesting, but on that note it might be better to visit it later in the year once all the foliage is out in full growth. Both are a little bigger and a little farther away than Yerxa, so we will be making a day of it either way. Any thoughts?

Very exciting. I love to play outside! No definite ideas on the art project outcome yet. Just collecting lots of pictures and ideas.

Sprouting a city

Delightful surprise when I arrived at school this morning! My city is growing great guns and the crystals are taking up the food colour nicely. Not full-grown yet but well on their way. Hope they last `til class on Tuesday. Taking lots of pictures just in case.

I love how they puff out of the tops of the buildings.

For some reason the super blue liquid turned brown in this larger batch. Very strange indeed. Can`t believe how fast it`s growing!

When nature overtakes architecture

Today was an extended and entirely pleasant day in the surface design studio. Many people around, some sort of open house to publicize the school and they were all very inquisitive. I was working away on some screen printing, texture samples, and a cityscape while the lady at the table across made encaustic board games. I spent the whole day intoxicated by the smell of beeswax. Could there be a more sticky drug? Teehee.

Here are the beginnings of my salt crystal cityscape. I left it at the school to grow (far too fragile for frolicking) and am chomping at the bit to go check on it. I suspect it will be half way to full-grown by the time I wake up. Probably make some coffee related excuse to go downtown and see it first thing.

Step One: Fabricate a cardboard city. Massacre it (and your hands) with food colouring, everyone`s favourite multi-medium.

Step Two: Flood your city with a foul-smelling blue concoction (recipe courtesy Mik3 at Instructables).

Step Three: Wait for the magic! I made this tester in advance so the suspense wouldn’t kill me. It makes me think of what skyscrapers might look like if all the people left and nature reclaimed its territory.

Also, I couldn’t be more satisfied with my dinosaur prints. Hooray for discharge paste! Here are the first couple bags. Need a little embellishment yet. Maybe some zigzag stitching and a button or two.

Time for sleep, more projects tomorrow :)

– Allison Green