Fertile Ground

Perpetua: Images of Place

The works in this series are part of a three person collaborative project. Participants were:
Susan Brandeis, North Carolina State University
Janice Pittsley, Arizona State University
Terri Warpinski, University of Oregon

The project culminated in an exhibition of fabric constructions, drawings and mixed media photographs inspired by our collaborative fieldwork in the coastal rain forest at Cape Perpetua, Oregon. Our shared experience and collaboration began with a week at the site, a place resplendent with huge, dense ferns, masses of horsetail, skunk cabbage, and Sitka spruces hundreds of years old, dripping with moss and lichens. The forest floor is spongy with debris and the air fragrant with pine and decaying plant material. The forest grows immediately adjacent to open, rocky shorelines studded with tide pools, swirls of slimy seaweed, and heaps of driftwood and fossilized shells. We immersed ourselves in the place. We hiked, absorbed, photographed, sketched, and discussed our reactions.

After our on–site experience, we returned to our studios to work. We each drew on the unique visual features we had collectively noted––density of plant growth, high contrasts, abrupt scale changes, bursts of light, and unique or predominant plant and geologic materials. But for each of us, certain aspects of the experience resonated more deeply and became the focus of our individual bodies of work. During the studio production phase of the project we continued to talk with each other about the nature of our individual creative processes, our attitudes toward the natural world, and our responses to readings we shared with each other. We attempted to keep in touch by email, three–way phone conversations, and mailing each other sketches and slides of works completed. We met to talk, critique work, and continue to probe the ideas we formulated. In the end, we found that there was really no fully adequate substitute for our face–to–face meetings to foster our connections to each other and the project.

We regarded the work resulting from this project as collaborative, though perhaps not in the commonly accepted sense. We did not work on pieces jointly, nor even develop any works collectively. Nevertheless, the shared experience of place, our intense conversations about our ideas and ways of working, and our strong reactions to the site influenced each of us very deeply. It changed the way each of us works. These pieces give physical form to our response to a special natural environment, a portrait of place from three points of view. Together they convey a glimpse of the mystery and magic we discovered.  The works shown on this page are my contributions to the group exhibition.