Language for a Faltering Mind
Naturally formed Plane tree bark fragments
inked and printed on Paper, 2013
In my work I create imagery where the language of human gesture can describe a complex and layered moment. In this body of work I explore the concept of language itself.
During an artist residency in Catalonia, Spain I encountered a layered language environment of Castilian and Catalan. As I grappled with the meanings of words, their nuance, their references, I was impressed with the power and political weight of language, and the significance of language as a touchstone of identity for the Catalan people.
Plane Tree Bark
In my contemplative walks, I happened upon the naturally formed bark fragments that fall from the trunk of the Plane (Platan) tree, ubiquitous in Spain. These unique forms struck me as hardly different from the letterforms that we collect and arrange into words to create meanings. My discovery of the tree bark evoked in my imagination an ancient, universal, yet forgotten language of Nature, shared by all humanity. I gathered, inked and printed these natural shapes, combining and arranging them like letters of an alphabet as booklets and charts like a primer or index, that we might re-learn and regain a lost universal language.
Coming home, I resumed my visits with an aging relative who was losing her linguistic ability due to Dementia, and with it, the specificity of her human connections. Her verbal communications had become detached, yet her speech had taken on a character of poetic depth and immediacy. I visited her, notebook in hand, and gathered her utterances as I had the fragments of tree bark. Using serigraphy (screen-print) technique, I printed her declarations, and paired each one with a composition of printed bark fragments. The combination of the screen-printed text with the relief-printed tree bark, each with their spacings and layerings whether of meaning or form, represents the potential for an alternative linguistic exchange, a continuing dialogue.