Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tendrils for Spring

I thought it would be a good idea to laze about in bed this morning so that I could make my land art excursion even more frantic than usual. The weather people had said that the sun would come out today. I am sure it was up the somewhere but there was still a blanket of cloud between me and it. I suppose I could grow really tall and go find it but it might just be easier to wait for the clouds to clear.

I've been reading a book at Meso-American art, it's been a long time interest of mine, and my mind was full of the ancient peoples icons and designs. As I ran about getting together my camera gear I started to think about what I read about the Olmecs and the way they depict clouds and smoke. I really liked how they did this and thought, that perhaps today I would incorporate some of that into what I would do.

The components I would need would be mud, bark and stone. Now how could I make this much more difficult than it needed to be?

First the stone. I would need a slab and my favourites are nowhere near the mud. Off I trudged with my 80 litre rucksack to select a shapely stone. And I would most definitely need to make sure it was damn heavy. That would come in handy later. As I looked through the slabs of stone I tried to imagine in my minds eye how the design would fit onto each one. None of them looked right but I selected one anyway and then tried to carry it back down the hill. Where's Fred Flinstone when you need him.

Even though it had rained all night I thought it was a good idea to wear cotton trousers and leaky trainers. When I finally got back to the car I was quite a sight. Pink faced and sweaty, my trousers wet-through from the knees down so that they looked like I had two colour trews on. My trainers weren't left out, they squeaked as though they enjoyed the moistness.

It was several miles to destination mud and it was also on the other side of a river. I had forgotten my wellies again, so I convinced myself that my day would truly be land art rich, as I would need to ford the river without any shoes. Grrr, and mountaineers think they're tough.

The place we were going to go after collecting, was yet another few miles away but at this rate we weren't going to finish until midnight and at least a little daylight is helpful with photography. So against my best of intentions I relented and went home to get the aforementioned wellingtons and instead would make something where the mud was. Of course, I would have much rather had waded across in bare feet and been soggy most of the day but sometimes circumstances go against you and you just have to be warm and happy all day. Ho-hum, maybe next time.

The river was quite high and the water very cold. "Damn you" I said to my wellies, "am I going to be doomed to this cosy life?" How I wished that I could feel the icey water through my toes and the delicious, accompanying pain. I sat down and drank my freshly brewed tea that seconds earlier had sat atop my camping stove and looked with disdain at my sandwich. Just what had happened to me? Where had those days gone where I felt weak from the bloodloss to midges or I had to snap off my own frostbitten toes. One must suffer for one's art and this sandwich, though delicious, wasn't helping.

I was soon up to my elbows in mud and searching for slivers of paper birch and in a flash (well an hour or two really) I was done with the Olmec inspired design. Is it the first tendrils of spring or the wisps of smoke from a fire?

Birch bark glows in the sun, so I scanned all around for a tree upon which I could position my slab. There was one nearby but on this side of the river so I dashed over to it carrying the slab.I soon realised this wasn't such a good idea. The slab weighed a ton and as it was covered in dark mud, I couldn't rest it against me and had to take all the weight on my arms. Between me and the tree was a bog and I very nearly catapulted over as my wellies went several inches in. I carried on regardless and muttered to myself "cripes this is heavy." Just as I got to the tree the sun went in again and my bog trotting, slab dash suddenly seemed as mad as it must have appeared to someone watching.

The next trick would have to be trying to wobble across the river carrying the slab, the trick being not to fall in. Fortunately the level had dropped a bit so it was easier but I still let in some over the top of my wellies. All that was left was to find a magnificent tree and in this particular place that's as easy as falling off a log.

I made this sculpture yesterday and the above is the account from then. I had left it propped up against a magnificent beech tree next to the road through the Trough of Bowland. I went back again today to see what had happened to it. The overnight rain had smeared itself across the surface but it was pretty much intact. I wonder whether anyone had noticed it, as it is easily visible if going past there, or better yet if someone had got out of their vehicle to take a look. I hope that it stays dry for a while as I'd like to go back to see how it changes, dries and cracks up. If it survives that long.


I am on the lookout for some particular plants and trees so if there are any locals who can help I'd be most grateful. Paper Birch is the first, I know of four trees but would like to find more. Anyone have any ideas? And lastly different varieties of Dogwood. I can find the green and red varieties but I am also looking for the yellow and orange, anyone know of any in north Lancashire. Cheers for any replies.

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