My work refers to Brazilian travels, specifically along the Amazon River Basin. Naturalistic forms resembling beehives, vertebrae, cocoons, anthills, plant forms and insects are spread across the surface of the work. My palette is often subdued beneath a layer of darkness, suggesting mystery. The work transcribes a memory of objects and impressions of what was seen and felt.
Brazil and the Amazon River Basin have been the subject and inspiration for my work for more than twenty-five years. Visiting the region now two to three times a year I find that the landscape has many moods. The Amazon River is an apt metaphor for the act of churning up remembered objects and sights, gathered while traveling along its rough course. In its flow, the river boils an object to the surface only to swallow it up again to resurface later. These impressions are a memory of the river bound on both sides by a high, dark jungle; foreboding and beautiful. If it takes you in, it takes you in whole.
Flora Brasiliensis Series Statement
The drawings titled Flora Brasiliensis are part of a series of work started in 2006 and continuing today. I discovered a damaged book of botanical drawings in the basement of an old antique bookseller in São Paulo, Brazil two years ago. The book was damaged beyond repair because the best pages and images had been torn from the binding and bugs had started to attack the remaining images and the paper they were printed on. The book was printed in the year 1870, on beautiful handmade cotton paper, and was a reference guide for botanists.
I purchased the book and decide to revive it by fumigating it and arresting its deterioration. Each page was then washed and dried. I was familiar with the process of making handmade paper as I had studied the process in the 1970’s at the Magnani Paper Mill, Pescia, Italy and had operated my own mill in California until the early 1980’s.
Once the paper was stabilized I began to make my own drawings on the paper using watercolor, gouache, conte, ink and a variety of other materials. At first I was working without concern for the existing image. When my drawing started to coincide with images on the paper the relationship began to transform the drawings. My contemporary approach to what I saw and knew about Amazon plant life was now interacting with the historical images on paper. The result is, as the critic Kenneth Baker writes,
“The contrast in precision between the printed and the painted figures evokes the difference between taxonomic recognition and an encounter with the botanical unknown, a difference the experienced Amazon traveler must know deeply.”