Today is Wednesday July 6, 2016. I am feeling familiarity and calm this morning. Many things around me are similar, but the differences remind me of time and place and how memory intertwines with the present. I am sitting at the same desk in the same room. However, it is on the opposite side of the room and the computer is a laptop instead of my large Mac. The room has been updated with new tile and painting and decorative blinds and rugs. There is a lovely palm plant in the corner. My memory of living here for nearly a year is blending with the present reality of our three-week visit. This is our third day and I look forward to writing, reflecting and making my work.
I had planned to start Chapter 2 of my thesis with this entry. However, it is feeling more relevant to recall an entry from an older blog about my experience here that first year.
“Sunday December 28, 2014
Chasing the sun…..
The sun sets differently this time of year. I did not realize how the landscape would change here. How the light has been altered due to the time of the month and this date near the end of the year. My last visit here was five months ago. Then, it was hot, humid and mostly sunny. Now, it is warm, humid and mostly sunny. This is my third day in this new landscape and what is now being called home.
The sun set at 5:56 pm according to the app on the phone. I looked out the window at approximately 5:30. The view from within the frame of the window provided a glimpse at the sunset. Luminous clouds filled the space between the horizon and the darkening sky. I decided to go out to take in this view and my husband suggested that we hop in the car for a quick drive to the shoreline. As we walked quickly from the parking lot to the water, I felt as though we were chasing the sun. Between 5:48 pm and 5:56 pm the sun no longer cast its warmth and instead took up residence in the clouds hovering above the sea.
March 31, 2015
I have been here for three months. Rarely do I really consider where I am in relationship to place and perspective. I do not feel as though I am on an island. When driving, I see the water on one side at times, but never on both. This sense of relating to a place and its boundaries can only reveal itself realistically if actually perceived. And, at the moment, while in the act of walking or driving, such a view is not possible and therefore, seems to block the idea of the ‘island’. I have yet to gain that understanding. How is this space, this place perceived?
I’ve always had an interest in maps and direction. Growing up in northeast Indiana, I was surrounded by square miles of farmland. The house I grew up in was in a subdivision. However, the house was not part of the usual plan or organization and sat rather, on the parameter of the neighborhood. The backyard was not square or symmetrical and continued its boundary into an undetermined space of a wooded ravine. My childhood was filled with walks through this rugged place. Drawn to texture and details in nature, I recall explorations of plants and trees. By contrast, the daily route to elementary school involved traveling into the symmetrical fields of soybeans and corn. Less than a mile from home the roads turned from curvy to straight and the view opened. The charted path of the school bus involved time as it picked up students along the way. The thirty minute ride often included the act of simply looking out the window. The frame of the window selected my view.
The landscape of the place I grew up altered slightly when my family moved from the subdivision to a new neighborhood roughly four miles to the north and east. This home was located along a slightly curvy East/West state highway intersecting the square mile grid of North and South county roads. The backyard was pastoral as it encompassed several acres of land filled with a large pond surrounded by walnut, pine and sycamore trees. A winding creek flowed through an open space of wild grasses and unruly developments of Goldenrod and Milkweed. After the childhood years of exploration of the previous home, I was newly challenged by this space with its offerings of water, steep ravines and room to walk.
A few years ago I began to study the map of this landscape. I was intrigued by Google Maps and the new ability to view an area from above through the use of a computer. Through this study, I learned about my home place from a new perspective. I could see the roads connecting and the creek winding. I found myself in awe in the realization that the two home places were more connected than previously thought. The creek that flowed behind my childhood home was the same of my second home. Clear Creek charted its curvy path through the county roads from north to south where it eventually ended in the Wabash River.
This study of my home place arrived at a time of learning to navigate a new landscape. I was searching for similarities in a seemingly dissimilar place. I wondered about how to connect with a new place? How does the new space become familiar? Does it become a home? How does this relationship form?
A few years ago I made a new piece titled, “Merging Space, Merging Place”. As a time-based single channel video, the piece aimed to answer questions I had about where I lived as it compared to my home in Indiana. I often made work considering this question. In the summer of 2008, I moved away from northeast Indiana for the first time. I had lived in the region for thirty-one years (including college a mere fifty miles to the south). I was ready for a change in scene and a chance to make my work. Alfred, NY was about five hundred miles to the east and north. Surrounded by steep hills and low mountains, the village was small, quaint and charming. I found this new landscape to be very visually intriguing. The horizon line altered with each step and mile explored. No longer enclosed by square miles of farmland, I embraced the difference and challenged my sense of direction by taking many un-mapped excursions into the wilderness. My art soon became a study of this place and my relationship to it.
The two-year study in Alfred focused on research development for achieving a Master in Fine Arts degree. My research included visual art in the form of time based media with video, prints and artist books. Much of the imagery at the beginning depicted the land of Western New York, but it evolved to include the land I’d left behind. In my visits home, I continued the daily practice of making work by taking pictures and video of my favorite places. In leaving home, I found myself eager to return to the landscape for its meditative and soothing atmosphere. My relationship with this place was steeped in memory and years of exploration. Each time I visited during those two years, I found deeper appreciation for what it offered: a sense of history and connection and a difference to what appeared to be so exciting in the hills of Alfred. While I accepted difference in both locations, I found similarities and began to further research what would become my thesis.
In April of 2010, my MFA thesis culminated in a final exhibition titled, “Figure Ground Rhythm: Electronic Meditations on Time”. The visual element took form in exhibition design within a gallery space. A video installation room dominated and intersected the direction of view from beginning to end as the viewer became a participant in the four-dimensional relationship to place. All of the pieces interconnected to reveal a place: my home in northeast Indiana. The written thesis delved into research of landscape in art throughout history including: American Tonalism, straight photography, Pictorialism, American landscape painting of the 1800’s, German Romanticism, Claude Monet, and more recently experimental film and video art of the 1970’s. A study of psychology and perception were also included, as I was additionally influenced by Deleuze and Lacan. My work now, is at it was then, continues to be about place and time, meditation, introspection and identity in relationship to the landscape.
Last Friday I attended a luncheon for a ladies group celebrating six years of meeting once a month. Throughout the hour, they shared stories of the beginning and how various experiences became a yearly ritual. During the luncheon, as the women reflected, I too thought back to six years ago when I was half way through the first year of MFA studies in Alfred. Five years ago I completed my degree. Two years ago in March I sent an email to an old friend. A year ago we reconnected and now, we are married and living in Grand Cayman, an island surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. Today I’m asking questions about place and time as I pursue this new landscape. How does this new place connect to the others? Will the ritual of the tide and subtle sea remind me of the rolling hills of the Palouse? Will the sea mist add a layer of diffusion to an otherwise known landscape? Will my walk here also become a search for familiarity?”