Suze’s Art News July 2022

Coming up very soon and somewhat later …

Six-Fold Increase: I’ll show burned tree paintings, including a number of new ones and the 21.5-foot Magnitude of the Problem, at Plasteel Frames & Gallery in the Design Center in July-August. There will be an opening reception July 14 from 5 – 8 pm. (Seattle WA)

Larger than Life, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 51.5”H x 28”W; 2022
(Shown rotated)

CarbonThe Vestibule Gallery is assembling a topical exhibit for September; I will be showing both a burned tree painting and a small installation about carbon emissions. (Seattle WA)

Carved Out, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 51.5”H x 10”W; 2022.
(Shown rotated)

Kirkland Arts Center will be showing 3 of my bark beetle books as part of The Truth is Out There August 24 – October 29, with a reception August 26, 6-8 pm, including the recent collaboration with composer Aldo Daniel Rivera Rentería, who composed a short suite for “What the Beetles Sang.” Listen to it here! (Kirkland WA)

Bark Beetle Book Volume 39, Laser-engraved log slices with Douglas Fir pole beetle galleries (Scolytus monticolae), antique wooden violin clamps

Art that Matters to the Planet is an exhibit at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute July 27– October 30. I assumed they would pick one of my submissions and they asked for six: three burned trees and three bark beetle books! (Jamestown NY)

In Magnuson Park there is a second annual plein air festival. I have two paintings in the exhibit (second floor of the administration building) and will give a demonstration outside the Building 30 front door at noon on July 2. (Seattle WA)

South Park Crane, watercolor on paper, 11” x 15”

The Anacortes Arts Festival juried show has again chosen some of my burned trees, including the complex Deep Creek Triplet and the recent Montana Sandblasted. The Festival runs August 5-7 but the juried gallery opens July 30. However, I will be at a Mineral School residency then and not present for the reception. (Anacortes WA)

Deep Creek Triplet with detail view, 51.5”H x 31”W; varnished watercolor on laser-cut polypropylene, 2021.

The Puget Sound Book Artists’ annual membership exhibit includes What the Beetles Wrote and Below the Bark, in which I used padded fabric printed with my painting of Ponderosa bark as a metaphor for the structure of trees. The show is currently on at the Collins Library, University of Puget Sound, until August 5 (Tacoma WA).

Science Stories, a traveling book arts show curated by Lucia Harrison, will be opening at Whitman College’s  Penrose Library in August, then travels to The Evergreen State College January-March 2023. (Walla Walla, WA then Olympia WA)

Bark Beetle Volume 34: Resource Competition Branch with galleries; “blue-stained” dimensional lumber, laser-cut Baltic birch plywood, with laser print transfers, Kevlar thread. 5″H x 12.75″W x 4″D.

Based on a remark by entomologist Kenneth Raffa, that both humans and beetles
like to make their homes from wood, thus we are competing for the same resource.
This video about the book shows its morph from beetle-galleried-branch to dimensional lumber.

Also current, The Wildling Museum continues Fire and Ice until September 26. My co-collaborator Lorena Williams and I will be doing an online talk September 15. The registration link isn’t posted yet but check in mid-August. (Solvang CA and everywhere).

The State of the Forest grove of fabric trees, which has been touring with Environmental Impact II since 2019 just opened at Northwest Michigan College. It will go on to two more stops before finishing at the Detroit Zoo in 2023. (Traverse City MI)

In other news, I’m looking forward to a brief residency, postponed from 2020, that is a joint project of Parks Canada, the Alpine Club of Canada and the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre in July — and likewise at the aforementioned Mineral School in early August. In September/October I am truly excited to begin my stay in the Methow Valley for the Mary Kiesau Community Fellowship.

The online ecology magazine terrain.org featured my burned tree paintings in June.

My head is spinning — I’ll report back how it all turns out!

Collaboration also = Inspiration

A while ago I wrote a post equating iteration with inspiration, but I have an additional candidate.

My friend Ellie Mathews of The North Press recently wrote a post about the pleasures of collaboration, based on a project we worked on together– one of my bark beetle book series, with a poem by Canadian poet Murray Reiss.

In the back-and-forth process of ideas and versions, she suggested I paint a portrait of some Ponderosa bark in the absence of any available locally. I did so and the suggestion continues to bear fruit (cones?) …

First I used it printed on fabric for the cover of a book earlier this winter:

Photo of Suze Woolf Bark Beetle Book #38
Bark Beetle Book Volume XXXVIII: Below the Bark
The padded fabric is a “quilt” cover on the wood, with beetle galleries visible through the “title window,” as if it were a school paper in a folder.

More recently I’ve been working with a young composer on the East Coast, Aldo Daniel Rivera Renteria; I was referred to him by the office manager of the laser cutters I usually work with, Laser Fremont in Seattle. I wanted to do something with these mysterious wooden clamps we found:

Photo of Suze Woolf Bark Beetle Book #39
Volume XXXIX: What the Beetles Sang

They turned out to be violin clamps. If you’re out in the country in Norway, you make your own folk violin, doesn’t everybody?!? I knew of book forms in India that use large wood screws to hold sheets of painted wood in boxes, so I felt totally legit using them as a binding.

I asked around for music composition apps because it seemed necessary to reference the musical antecedents, but soon realized even if I could put notes on a stave, I was no composer or arranger. Aldo Daniel Rivera Renteria and I had a bunch of Zoom meetings. He wrote two pieces for me, a longer improvisation (Conversation, Improvisation No. 6 | Wood and Metal – YouTube) and a shorter composition (What the Beetles Sang | Bark Beetles Book Vol. 39 – YouTube).

I once again used the Ponderosa bark painting for a folio that contains the score, both a handwritten page (laser cut on the inside wood pages) and the “typeset” formal score:

Photo of Suze Woolf Bark Beetle Book #40
Bark Beetle Book Volume XL: The Orchestration of Climate
The cover is printed paper over book boards, the inside wood pages were laser-engraved with some of Aldo’s handwritten notation,

and the separate stitched folio is the formal score.

It was a thrill to work with Aldo whose skills are so different than my own! Every collaboration, to date with with foresters, entomologists, poets, papermakers, letterpress printers and now a composer takes me down new creative paths – talk about a gift that keeps on giving!

Suze’s Art News April 1, 2022 – no fooling!

It is spring! The fruit trees are blooming, daylight lasts past dinner, and here is some of what I look forward to this spring and summer.

Sooner:
The Bainbridge Island Museum of Art’s exhibit Boundless includes five of my bark beetle books. I am profoundly honored to be part of both such an original and creative assembly as well as the permanent collection. The exhibit is part of the Dog Ear Festival, and I will be part of an in-person Earth Day panel on art and environmental justice on April 23. (Bainbridge Island, WA)

Bark beetle books at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Cynthia Sears book art collection:
Top: page detail, Scolytid Lifecycle
Middle left: The Sky Cracks Open; middle right: Encyclopedia Beetletainia
Bottom left: Survivorship, bottom right: Unwinding through Time
A majority of my burned tree works are in a solo private exhibit, The Magnitude of the Problem, at Aljoya Thornton Place January 31-May 15. I will be giving a talk there April 11 at 2pm. (Seattle, WA)
The Magnitude of the Problem, panels 1-7 at Aljoya Thornton Place
Lucia Harrison’s wonderful book artist/scientist collaboration exhibit, Science Stories, is at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center March1-June 1, Whitman College August 1-December 31 (Walla Walla, WA) and Evergreen State College Library January 1-to March 1, 2023. For the Port Angeles exhibit they added three of my burned tree portraits as well as the two bark beetle books. (Port Angeles WA)
The Great Old Broads for Wilderness auction goes live April 18-27, with two pieces I gave them. Last year I taught a watercolor workshop on a San Juan River trip as a fundraiser for them; what a great group! (Online)

Left: Wildcat Viewpoint, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″ (Zion National Park); right: Lick Wash, watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11″ (near Kanab UT)
I have two pieces in Central Washington University’s annual juried exhibit “Interstate 2022” which runs until April 23. (Ellensburg, WA)

Top: Telegraph Canyon (rotated) 52″H x 13″W varnished watercolor on torn paper
Bottom: What the Beetles Wrote, 11″H x 9″W x 6″D closed. Wood, cast paper, mat board,
iron-oxide-dyed non-woven viscose.
UPDATE: I’m happy to report the book was awarded second place by the juror, Faith Brower, of the Tacoma Art Museum.
The fabric version of The Magnitude of the Problem will be part of Fire and Ice at the Wildling Museum of Art & Nature opening April 9 and running into September. Lorena Williams wrote a moving essay on the threatened Mariposa Grove in Yosemite that now graces the backs of the fabric panels. (Solvang CA)

 “Large trees hold sway in our hearts…. We name them.”
Panels 1-7 of The Magnitude of the Problem 49″H x 21.5 feet wide in its horizontal configuration
Another large, burned tree portrait is in the Northwest Watercolor Society’s Waterworks membership exhibit. The exhibition begins Thursday April 28th with an online reception from 5:00-7:00 pm Pacific time. Everyone is invited to attend the event by registering at www.nwws.org. (Online)
Winter Rim (rotated), 52″H x 16″W, varnished watercolor on torn paper
Later:
I was so happy to have The Magnitude of the Problem at the King County Library in Kirkland last year, because of the Kirkland Art Center. In partial thanks, Glen Canyon Light will be featured in Kirkland Art Center’s 60th anniversary gala’s live auction on May 14. (Kirkland WA)
The University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture library will have a number of my bark beetle books in their display cases for an opening June 2, 5-7 pm, closing June 29. I’m working on Volume 40 now! (Seattle WA)

Beetle Graph, 86″H x 18″W x 3″D (open) Douglas fir branches, laser-cut wood, laser print transfers, bronze rings.
I’m so very honored to receive one of this year’s Mary Kiesau Community Fellowships. I’ll be giving a presentation in Twisp over the June 24-26 weekend, to be followed by a lengthy visit in the fall for community research, exploratory hikes and further studio work. (Methow Valley WA)
Burned tree pieces, including some new in 2022, will be featured at Plasteel Frames & Gallery in the Design Center in July-August, with a reception date planned for 7/15 but check back. (Seattle WA)


Larger than Life, 52″H x 28″W, varnished watercolor on torn paper.
I hope to connect or reconnect with you at one of these events!

Suze’s Art News January 2022: a new year begins

Last month our holiday cards read “Merry Chaos and Happy Uncertainty.” Superficially we all knew Life Was Uncertain, but many more of us have come to a deeper personal realization of it, if not yet acceptance!

In this moment …
I am so proud of the Below the Bark exhibit at the Missoula Art Museum running through-Feb 26. Together with printmaker Tim Musso and painter/photographer/book artist Jim Frazer, MAM did a fabulous job displaying our widely varied works in complementary ways. We gave an online panel, together with scientist Dr. Diana Six, for the opening: Below the Bark – Panel Discussion – YouTube.

On the left below is one of Jim Frazer’s large wall-mounted “glyphs,” at the rear, one of Tim Musso’s large woodcuts, and in the foreground, 5 of my small bark beetle books in one room of the exhibit.


CoCA’s membership exhibit, Art in Pandemia, has been extended to mid-February.  It includes my 2020 burned tree portrait Seamed. Artists in the show have been giving short talks about their work. (Seattle WA)

Photo of Suze Woolf painting of burned tree
Seamed, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 51.5” H x 9.5” W (shown rotated)

Patterson Cellars tasting room in Leavenworth has a selection of small Northwest landscapes until the end of April.

Below: Pahto (Mt Adams) from Loowit (Mt St Helens) from a ski descent in May 2021


The Louisiana Art & Science Museum’s show, “Iridescence,” runs until Jul 31, 2022, and includes my painting De-Limbed shown sideways below. (Baton Rouge LA)


As an extension of the 2019-2023 touring exhibit ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT II, a solo installation of State of the Forest will be on display at the Art Museum of East Idaho in Idaho Falls February 1 – April 1 before heading to the Detroit Zoo in June to be re-united with the rest of the exhibit.

A portion of State of the Forest at the Bateman Centre, Victoria, B.C. (Raymond Ng photo)


Lucia Harrison’s Science Stories closes soon at the Collins Library at University of Puget Sound but will travel to Port Angeles Fine Arts Center March1-June 1, Whitman College August 1-December 31 (Walla Walla, WA) and Evergreen State College Library January 1-to March 1, 2023 (Olympia WA).

Left: Resource Competition (Vol. XXXIV). Right: Obligate Mutualism (Vol. XXXII)


Next moments:
A majority of my burned tree work will be in a solo private exhibitThe Magnitude of the Problem, at Aljoya Thornton Place January 31-May 15.  COVID restrictions mean no in-person reception or talk, but there may be some online activity, TBD (Seattle WA). Let me know if you want to be notified.

The Magnitude of the Problem (title work), 21.5-feet long in 7 panels.


I’m just thrilled that the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art will feature both some of my bark beetle books and burned tree work in their exhibit beginning in March, Boundless (Bainbridge Island WA).

Left: The Sky Cracks Open (Vol. XXXVI) Right: Scolytid Lifecycle (Vol. XXII)


The fabric version of The Magnitude of the Problem will be part of Fire and Ice at the Wildling Museum from April to September (Solvang CA)


Burned tree pieces will be featured at Plasteel Frames & Gallery in the Design Center in June, exact dates still being finalized. Likewise, the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture has bark beetle books on their calendar for June (both Seattle WA).


And even as I try to accept that it may all change, those exhibits are what is planned…
Hope to see you in-person or online in happy uncertainty!

Suze’s Art News September 2021

Our pandemic days call for superpowers of persistence, patience
and kindness. Pass those gifts on!

In the Rear-View Mirror:
I’m once again happy to be part of Mighty Tieton’s 10x10x10 competition; it’s up until 10/10/21 (do you suppose that date was on purpose?!) (Tieton WA)

I’m pleased to have received an Honorable Mention in Lynn Hanson Gallery’s annual ICON show, the show remains up until 9/25 (Seattle WA)

In August, I taught a second weekend workshop for Gage Academy at the Bloedel Reserve with a great group of people. I’m planning on teaching an in-person indoor class in the second half of October, exact date still TBD—as is the in-person part…

Bloedel Woods, watercolor on paper, 11″x15″

Right in front of us:
As part of David Wagner’s Environmental Impact II exhibit, my installation “State of the Forest” has been touring locations around the US. It is currently at The Bateman Centre in Victoria, BC. I will be there to talk to gallery visitors and give a talk on 9/25, its last day. (Victoria BC)

https://batemanfoundation.org/exhibits/state-of-the-forest/

One of my favorite burned trees not only received the Festival Award at the Anacortes Arts Festival but sold. One of the several prizes it garnered was an exhibit at the Kirkland Public Library through a cooperative program with the Kirkland Arts Center. Last year I used lockdown time to paint a 21.5-foot burned tree, and I’m thrilled to finally have it in public view. The library has a reading list and a virtual panel with me and some of my collaborators planned for 7 pm October 19. (Kirkland WA)

The Magnitude of the Problem, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 50″H x 21.5′ W in 7 panels.

Coincidentally, the City of Auburn’s Art on Main program is showing a digitally-printed fabric version of the same tree, in a different orientation, in a downtown storefront. (Auburn WA)

The Art Gallery of SnoValley still has some landscapes of mine now through September. (Snoqualmie, WA) ART GALLERY OF SNOVALLEY – HOME. (Snohomish WA)

Gage Academy where I teach a weekend workshop once a quarter or so has an online exhibit by students and faculty called Portraits of the Pacific Northwest Exhibition & Art Sale now through 10/18 (online and Seattle WA)

On the book arts front, I have work in several exhibits: Puget Sound Book Arts membership exhibit at the University of Puget Sound Collins Library (Tacoma WA) and Movable Medley at the Art Students League until November 7 (Denver CO). After the PSBA membership exhibit, which ends Oct 1, Lucia Harrison’s Science Stories will occupy the Collins Library. All the pieces are part of my lengthy obsession with bark beetles—if their chewed trails look like an unknown script, what better form than a book?

The Louisiana Art & Science Museum’s show, “Iridescence,” runs until Jul 31, 2022, and includes my painting De-Limbed. (Baton Rouge LA)


Looking Ahead

I remain incredibly excited about Below the Bark at the Missoula Art Museum opening Oct 1-Feb 26, 2022. Together with printmaker Tim Musso and painter/photographer/book artist Jim Frazer, our exhibit will open on art walk night and we will also deliver a public lecture Oct 4. I’m excited that, among other things, it will be part of a statewide STEM/STEAM program for fifth graders. I will also be a Visiting Artist at the University of Montana Missoula, where I will offer a workshop for art and forestry students and faculty. Entirely coincidentally, State of the Forest will be opening as part of “Environmental Impact II” Oct 8 at the Museum of the Rockies (Bozeman, MT).

Bark Beetle Book Vol. XXVII: Survivorship. 
Log with mountain pine beetle galleries; letterpress-printed text with inked-in galleries, handmade and commercial Japanese paper; brass binding post. 6″H x 9.5″ diamBased on a paper by Six et al.: ~7% of whitebark pines in a research tract survived mass attack by mountain pine beetles. DNA analyses of the survivors showed they produced fewer defensive chemicals (which the beetles perceive). The proportion of dark, low-contrast (“quiet”) to light, high-contrast (“noisy”) pages in the book is 7/100.

The Confluence Gallery has an upcoming show, “Something in the Wind”  Oct 2 – Nov 13. It will include two of my burned tree paintings. (Twisp WA)

Stehekin Sentinel (rotated), varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52″H x 20″W

Also ahead, CoCA’s membership exhibit will include my 2020 burned tree Seamed Nov 4 – Jan 15, 2022. (Seattle WA)

Seamed (rotated), varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52″H x 9.5″W

And finally I am supposed to be an artist in residence at Centrum in November. (Port Townsend WA) 

And then again, who knows in what form  these events will take place?
Whatever form they take – as-planned, virtual or postponed – I wish you all good health!

Suze’s Art News June 2021

I feel so profoundly grateful to be reporting on some in-person experiences after 15 months of virtual ones.
I hope you are finding reasons for optimism, too!


In the Rear View Mirror:
In May I had the honor of teaching a workshop on a river trip for Great Old Broads for Wilderness, with a terrific group of guests and guides. What an experience! (San Juan River, UT)

Photo of Suze Woolf teaching watercolor on San Juan River trip
Starting a demo (Susan Kearns photo)

In June I taught a weekend workshop for Gage Academy at the Bloedel Reserve. It’s a beautiful destination, and I am going to be repeating it August 14-15. (Bainbridge Island, WA)

Bloedel Woods, watercolor on paper, 11″H x 15″W

Right in front of us:
My most recent burned tree painting—and arguably the most complex one yet—is currently part of The Schack Center’s 22nd biennial juried exhibit, June 17-July 24. There will be an in-person closing awards ceremony 7/15 5-8 pm PDT. Judging by what I saw at drop off, I am in excellent company! (Everett, WA).  

Deep Creek Triplet, varnished watercolor on laser-cut paper and polycarbonate, 52″H x 31″W

From May-July, Space at Magnuson Gallery has a plein air exhibit with two pieces of mine in it. (Seattle WA)

The Wilcox Bridge (Washington Park Arboretum), watercolor on paper, 11″H x 15″W

The Art Gallery of SnoValley has some landscapes of mine, now through the end of September. (Snoqualmie, WA)

Mt. Rainier from Mailbox Peak, watercolor on paper, 11″H x 15″W

Looking Ahead:

I was pleased to be accepted in Manifest Gallery’s “Pattern” competition, especially once I heard the acceptance rate was less than 3%! There will be a limited in-person opening July 8 and a virtual artist talk August 5, 6-8pm EDT (Cincinnati, OH)

Winter Rim (rotated), varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52″H x 16″W

In August my 30-set fabric-tree grove installation, “State of the Forest,” will be on exhibit at the Bateman Centre. My fingers are crossed that our countries’ pandemic situations improve enough that I can cross the Canadian border to see it! (August-September, then as part of Environmental Impact Sequel in Victoria, B.C. Canada)

From October 1, 2021 to February 26, 2022, together with printmaker Tim Musso and painter/photographer/book artist Jim Frazer, our exhibit “Below the Bark: Artworks of Disturbance Ecology” will open at the Missoula Art Museum. I’m excited that, among other things, it will be part of a statewide STEM/STEAM program for fifth graders.

Bark Beetle Book Volume XXXIV: Resource Competition. One-of-a-kind Artist Book: Branch, dimensional lumber with blue stain, laser-cut wood with laser print transfers. 5″H x 12.75″W x 4″D Both bark beetles and humans like to make their homes out of trees, so in some sense we are competing for the same resource. This book interpolates the gallery-covered branch into a piece of 1×4 dimensional lumber. You can see a video animation of the pages here: https://vimeo.com/468773992

I will also be a Visiting Artist at the University of Montana Missoula; entirely coincidentally, “State of the Forest” will be opening the second week of October as part of “Environmental Impact Sequel” at the Museum of the Rockies. (Bozeman, MT).


I hope I will get to see you at an in-person event in the future!

Suze’s Art News March 2021

Coming Up in the Next Quarter…

Climacteric Confluence, at Columbia City Gallery, Seattle March 26-May 9. Together with Melissa KochAnna McKee and Juliette Ripley-Dunkelberger, this exhibit addresses aspects of our climate crisis. The first word means, “a critical period or event” or “having extreme and far-reaching implications or results; critical.” It will include five of my burned tree paintings and six artist books from the bark beetle series.

Photo of Suze Woolf painting of burned tree
Seamed, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 51.5” H x 9.5” W (shown rotated)
Bark Beetle Book Volume 33: Hyphae, 14”H x 6”W x 8”D, Half-round log, handmade and commercial papers, abaca fiber. Based on the idea that fungi mycelium provide access to nutrients from otherwise indigestible wood. Because they leave a bluish stain on the sapwood, the endpapers are blue.

Bugs Aplenty, at The Elisabeth Jones Art Center, Portland OR April 1 – May 23. They had so great a response to their call for insect-related art that they divided the show into two sections. Two of my bark beetle books will be in the second; the first is here.

Forest Decomposition (Volume XIII) Beetle-inscribed bark embedded in epoxy resin covers; laser-cut mat board pages with tea-dyed rice paper and pyrography; viscose endpapers, linen thread 9″H x 8″W x 4″D closed
Bark Beetle Book Vol. XIV Ars datum est (Volume XIV). Fir-engraver-inscribed log; laser-cut mat board; paint; linen thread. 16.5″H x 5″ diameter, closed. Each page is essentially a bar from a bar chart representing the areas affected in British Columbia and Alberta from 1999-2007.

I’m honored to be included in the National Watercolor Society’s annual members’ exhibit, which will be virtual May 1 – June 27. They chose Goodell Creek Cedar, which is proving to be one of my most popular burned tree portraits ever. This same painting received a first-place award at Ida Culver Broadview’s Earth, Wind and Fire exhibit last quarter.


I’ll also be in the Northwest Watercolor Society’s membership exhibit with the burned tree portrait below; it will be online at www.nwws.org, beginning with a virtual opening at 7 pm on April 22, and up through June 30.

This is the first painting in this long series that involved substantial mechanical engineering for its physical display: I had to figure out a way to include the free-standing fragile branches. A matching stiff backing for each bundle of branches was laser-cut from acrylic and attached to a backing plate that rests above the hanging cradle on back of the trunk’s mounting board.

I’m so pleased with how the branches look that my next tree painting, still in progress, will have hundreds of them!


Science Stories: A Collaboration of Book Artists and Scientists, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma WA, will be virtual until September 1, then physical in the Collins Memorial Library October 1, 2021 – January 15, 2022. My pieces, Obligate Mutualism and Resource Competition, have short videos about them linked from the site.

For the same effort I have also been acting as designer/book artist to a collaboration between Professor Daniel Burgard, a chemist working on environmental monitoring through wastewater sampling, and photographer James Oker, on Working Up Stream.


For June through early September, the San Francisco Center for the Book and the San Francisco Public Library are hosting an exhibit called “Reclamation.” Two of my beetle books, Survivorship and Beetle Graph, will be in it.

Bark Beetle Book Vol. XXVII: Survivorship. Log (likely white bark pine) with mountain pine beetle galleries, laser-cut bamboo, offset-printed text with inked-in mountain pine beetle galleries, brass binding post. 9.5″ diameter, 6″ H. Based on a paper by Six et al.: ~7% of white bark pines in a research tract survived mass attack by mountain pine beetles. DNA analyses of the survivors showed they made fewer of certain volatile organic compounds that the beetles perceive. The interior pages of the book have been printed with “ASCII art” of the mRNA encoding for monoterpene synthase, one of those compounds. Like the trees that survived, the proportion of dark, low-contrast (“quiet”) to light, high-contrast (“noisy”) pages in the book is 7/100.
Bark Beetle Book Volume XXXI: Beetle Graph. Douglas fir branches, laser-cut wood, laser-print transfers, bronze rings. 86″H x 18″W x 3″D. Each branch is a bar from a bar graph of the most destructive bark beetles in Washington State from 2008-2018.

In October 2021 through January 2022, Tim Musso’s giant woodcuts about bark beetles and forests, Jim Frazier’s bas-relief glyphs based on their galleries, and my bark beetle books will be shown together in “Below the Bark, at the Missoula Art Museum in Missoula, MT.  Artist talks and student STEAM activities are being planned around the exhibit. I’ll have more to report more in my next mailing.


If the creek and the COVID don’t rise, I’m excited to be teaching a floating workshop to benefit Great Old Broads for Wilderness on a San Juan River rafting trip May 15-19. If you are interested there might be one or two spots left.

Cedar Mesa from Goosenecks State Park. Watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11″ (sold)
If you turned around and looked down from here, you’d be looking down on the the San Juan River, and a canonical example of goose necks shown in many geology textbooks. This where the river trip and workshop will be.

And last but not least, I will once again be teaching a 2-day watercolor landscape class through Seattle’s Gage Academy June 12-13. It will likely be a few weeks before it is posted on their workshop calendar.

Norse Peak Burn from the Deep Creek Trail, watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11″

I’ve had some inspiring conversations with people who have reached out to me about the bark beetle books—artist and entomology professor Barrett Klein at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, poet and novelist-to-be Sean Petrie, and I’ve been reading Jody Gladding’s poetry in Translations from Bark Beetle. You never know where your artwork will take you!


Keep your chin up and stay safe!

Suze’s Art News December 2020

Since September…

In the past several months, I’ve given several virtual talks, one for Puget Sound Book Artists which covered my bark beetle books in last summer’s long empty and silent exhibit, “Gathered from the Field,” at Kittredge Gallery  ·  University of Puget Sound. Another was for Seattle Co-Arts which covered a range of my art projects and what motivates me.  I was deeply gratified by compliments such as “…[your work] would expand [students’] ideas of what a book is,” “Your exposition of the effect of eco-disruption is so creative and compelling,” and “[you are] a link for both scientists and artists to collaborate.”


(Above) West Point Lighthouse at Low Tide,
watercolor on paper, 11”x15”

(Below) Suze painting masked in Kubota Garden
(James McFarlane photo) 

A June-October activity that was surprisingly meaningful was coordinating plein air outings for our local Northwest Watercolor Society NWWS, together with Stephanie Twigg’s longtime group of summer painters. We visited 21 different locations; in such stressful times, the chance to paint together outside, even masked and socially distanced, was revitalizing. We had participants tell us it was the highlight of their weeks and downright life-saving.


The Magnitude of the Problem, panel 2. Varnished watercolor on torn paper, 39” x 47”

There are some advantages to this pandemic for exhibiting artists — NWWS’s International Open was virtual this year, which meant no packing, shipping, or delivery as well as no size limits. I was happy to have one panel of my huge, burned tree painting, The Magnitude of the Problem, in it. The total piece is 21.5 feet long or high, a format which doesn’t translate well to a small horizontal screen. Part of reacting to a work of art is a visceral response, feeling its scale in relation to your own body in space. (See Art in the Time of Coronavirus, or, “The Big Tree” ) for a longer essay about it.)


(Top) Ars datum est (Volume XIV). Fir-engraver-inscribed log; laser-cut mat board; paint; linen thread. 16.5″H x 5″ diameter, closed. Each page is essentially a bar from a bar chart representing the areas affected in British Columbia and Alberta from 1999-2007.

(Bottom) Beetle Graph (Volume XXXI). Douglas fir branches, laser-cut wood, laserprint transfers, bronze rings. 86″H x 18″W x 3″D The top three species contributing totree mortality in Washington State from 2009-2018:  Dendroctonus ponderosae (~69%); Scolytus ventralis (~20%); Dendroctonus pseudotsugae (11%). Data from Aerial Detection Surveys summarized in WA DNR annual Forest Health reports

I was honored to receive the “Strongest Voice in Art” award from Lynn Hanson Gallery’s annual ICON Show. Juror Stephanie Hargrave gave the award for my bark beetle books shown above.


Goodell Creek Cedar, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52”H x 16”W and 52”H x 44”W

I thank June Sekiguchi, multi-talented artist and curator for featuring 6 of my burned tree portraits in her recent Earth, Wind and Fire exhibit at Ida Culver House Broadview. It is closed to the public but there is a video here:Earth Wind and Fire at Ida Culver House Broadview.


Party Platforms. Mixed media, ~15”W x 18”H x 10”D.

Somewhat frivolously, my longtime friend Cath Carine and I created a mixed media piece called Party Platforms – when will they learn to dance? As the election got closer it was harder to find any aspect as amusing as it seemed last February, when the original task was to develop shoe-based artwork for the Anacortes Art Festival’s fundraiser gallery. That event was postponed and then cancelled, but it was shown in Las Lagunas Gallery’s “Political Discord” virtual exhibit. Watch an animation here: Party Platforms animation 2 on Vimeo


What’s Yet to Come
(or, as this past year has taught us, at least what I have planned that might change…)

At the invitation of the Woodinville Arts Alliance, in October I installed 17 burned tree paintings and 4 burned-over landscape paintings at Patterson Cellars‘ tasting room at their Seattle location. They look great in this big space, but of course with our current pandemic closures, they’re again all by themselves. They are supposed to be up until sometime in March – I hope they can be seen before then!


Tentatively titled Zion Branches, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52”H x 22”

In March-May I will be part of an environmentally-themed exhibit at Columbia City Art Gallery in Seattle. I will have some new material there, such as this just-finished Zion National Park tree. I am experimenting with new ways to mount separate additional branches alongside the trunk of the tree. I found the branches so visually exciting it’s tempting to start a new series of just branches!


(Left) Forest Decomposition (Volume XIII) Beetle-inscribed bark embedded in epoxy resin covers; laser-cut mat board pages with tea-dyed rice paper and pyrography; viscose endpapers, linen thread 9″H x 8″W x 4″D closed

(Center and Right) Outbreak (Volume XXV) Log with beetle galleries, handmade Japanese paper, iron-oxide-dyed non-woven viscose 12″H x 6″ diam. Some of the sheets are chiri (“leftover”) kozo fiber which has many small bits of bark embedded in them. The frontispiece has leaf skeletons embedded in it. The increasing circular areas covered by rubbings taken from the same represent the proportion of tree mortality in the Quesnel Timber Supply Area of central British Columbia 1999 – 2016.

North American Handmade Papermakers’ “Materiality” exhibit will be online this year. It goes live on December 21 at https://www.northamericanhandpapermakers.orgI’m honored to have two of the bark beetle books that include handmade papers in the exhibit, where they are surrounded by amazing pieces. I owe a debt of gratitude to Mary Ashton, who taught me about making Japanese papermaking as well as Western, and to Bonnie Thompson Norman who helped offset-print some of those papers.


Just over Knapsack Pass, watercolor on paper, 11” x 15”

From January 6 to February 20 I will have small Northwest landscapes at Shore-Lake Art Gallery in Lake Forest Park, mostly from the many hikes I took this summer.

I’m happy to have a 2021 Shunpike Storefront exhibit exact date and location TBD, during which I will finally have a space large enough to be able to show “The Magnitude of the Problem” (see above). Likewise I will have an October storefront for the City of Auburn’s Art on Main program.

Bark Beetle Book Vol. 34: Resource Competition. Branch with beetle galleries; blue-stained dimensional lumber, laser-cut Baltic birch plywood, with laser-print transfers, Kevlar thread. 5″H x 12.75″W x 4″D. I interpolated a branch to dimensional lumber in both form and graphics, because both beetles and humans like to make their homes from trees; hence we are competing for the same resource.

I have been continuing to work on bark beetle books with my chief scientific mentor, Dr. Diana Six of the University of Montana. While we were already in this collaboration, together we will be part of an exhibit entitled “Science Stories” which matched book artists and scientists at the University of Puget Sound. It will be virtual from March – September 2021, with the hope that it will be installed and viewable in person in September.

For the same effort I have been acting as book artist/designer to a collaboration between Professor Daniel Burgard, a chemist working on environmental monitoring through wastewater sampling, and photographer James Oker.

Larches at Lake Ann, watercolor on paper, 11” x 15”

And last but not least, I will once again be teaching a 2-day online winter landscape painting class (is that an oxymoron!?) through Seattle’s Gage Academy. There’s still room.


Stay safe and keep those around you safe!

Why they take so *#$@^* long!

(“They” being my series of artist books made from bark-beetle-damaged wood and bark. Warning, this post is almost as long as the process!)

The Idea

I had the idea maybe as long as 4 or 5 months ago. I saw these paragraphs in the introduction to a textbook about bark beetles:

“Bark beetles play key roles in the structure of natural plant communities and large-scale biomes. They contribute to nutrient cycling, canopy thinning, gap dynamics, biodiversity, soil structure, hydrology, disturbance regimes, and successional pathways. Several species in particular can genuinely be designated as ‘landscape engineers,’ in that they exert stand-replacing cross-scale interactions.

In addition to their ecological roles, some bark beetles compete with humans for valued plants and plant products and so are significant forest and agricultural pests. These species cause substantial socioeconomic losses, and at times necessitate management responses. Bark beetles and humans are both in the business of converting trees into homes, so our overlapping economies make some conflict of interest inevitable.”

Kenneth F. Raffa, Jean-Claude Gregoire and B. Staffan Lindgren, Natural History and Ecology of Bark Beetles, Introduction to Chapter 1 Bark Beetles, Elsevier, 2015.

I started thinking about how I could invoke this competition for resources metaphorically.  I’d collected some particularly handsome beetle galleries on medium-size branches in the Wenatchee National Forest. And I’d been reading one of Diana Six’s papers on the obligate mutualism of certain fungi to bark beetles – the beetles carry the fungi from one tree to another and the fungi convert some of the elements the beetles need to digest tree wood. Certain species leave a calling card—a greyish tone from the sapwood toward the heartwood, called “blue stain.”

Procuring Materials

I asked a Montana friend who used to manage a timber mill if he could get me any of this wood as dimensional lumber. That took a while, as not every supplier bothers to carry it, since it is not popular in appearance and may have the holes of other kinds of beetles. I didn’t need very much, so it wasn’t hard to ship it to me in Seattle.

I received the dimensional lumber about 10 weeks ago.

Laying Out the Cut

I decided to interpolate the branch shape to the 12-inch length of 1×4 over 16 spreads, or 34 pages, counting the inside front and inside back. I did the drawing in Inkscape and had it laser-cut with 36 binding holes, 9 groups of 4, and included those 1 mm holes in the drawing. Over time, I’ve developed a method for making these interpolations successfully.

My interpolated cutting diagram laid out (remember each page has two sides)

I had some leftover 1/8” Baltic birch plywood from a previous project, so I laid out the cuts to fit it. It probably took me 2 days to make the drawing and its imposition onto the wood sheet. Then it turned out my usual local supplier, Fremont Laser & Design, had changed ownership and moved and was just getting started up again. So that took a little time, too. It was cut about 4 weeks ago.

Prepping the Materials

Oh yeah, there’s also soaking both the branch and the plank in Minwax wood hardener. I do that for several reasons: I once heard a story from a curator about an artist’s “organic” work on display from which emerged an army of live insects. So I want to be sure anything still in there is quite dead. Plus it helps stabilize the wood and prevent any further checking or cracking. And there’s the time I sit in the driveway cleaning the frass out of the galleries with an old toothbrush… So a couple of hours there.

Page Graphics

I faced the problem of what I wanted to show on those pages. They looked good by themselves, but I felt I needed to underline the meaning more strongly. I decided to morph an image of the branch into an image of the dimensional lumber, with each gradually taking over from the other over half the book’s pages. That is, in the first half of the book the bark beetle galleries take up more and more of the page—the beetles are winning; then the lumber becomes an increasing proportion of the page—the humans are competing.

This turned out to be a lot harder than I would have guessed. It was no big deal to photograph the dimensional lumber. But it took me several tries to figure out how to create an image of the branch (which is only ~2 inches wide) that I could use across all the different page widths. I knew I needed to “unwrap” the texture of the branch onto a 4”-wide rectangle. The method that finally worked was to stand the branch up on a lazy susan where 180-degrees were marked off in 22.5-degree segments. I set a camera on a tripod in front of the lazy susan, took photos at each 22.5-degree rotation, then used Microsoft Research’s Image Composite Editor to stitch them together.  There went another few days….

180-degrees of the branch in 8 photos, stitched together
Dimensional lumber, blue stain on the upper right

I tried several different apps for morphing one image into the other but wasn’t satisfied with the image quality of any of the video morphing ones. I finally used the animation plug in for GIMP. But I had to figure out the proportions in pixels to have the correct transitions from one texture to the other, as well as how to fade one image into the other, since I didn’t want a harsh line between them. 

My thumbnail drawings and pixel calculations

And of course, with 20 layers, the file was huge and gave me all sorts of computer fits and starts. I finally got it to work, painfully exporting the image graphic for each page, front and back–66 in all.

Then I remembered the spreads needed to face each other, i.e. the image on the left-facing page would be flipped horizontally with respect to the right-facing page. However I could do this in page layout software…  There goes a week.

I sent a PDF file to my partner’s 11 x17 office laser printer, with two of my book pages on an 11 x 17 sheet, but the prints weren’t as vivid and sharp as I had hoped. It turned out my own printer with high quality paper was better. So I re-laid it out on legal size paper, which is the largest I can print in my studio. Then I realized if I was going to use a laser print transfer method, I’d have to flip all the pages back the other way, since the print needed to go toner-side down onto the wood pages.

I also decided I wanted to include the text quoted at the beginning, so that meant going back into each image file of all the pages to add the text. And that the text would have to be reversed. There goes another week…

Laser print transfers for each page

OK, then the process becomes even more laborious. I coated both sides of each wooden page with acrylic gloss medium—two coats, a dry thicker one and a half-water, thinner coat to even out any rugosities. That’s 80 coats in all. Then I do the same thing with all the prints, 80 more. Then I use the same gloss medium to glue them together. I only made one sequence mistake, but it’s not very obvious, so I can live with it.

And speaking of tedious, after the prints-glued-to-wooden-pages dry for 24 hours under weights, the next step is to dissolve the paper off the back of the print. In my experience this usually takes at least three passes. In the first pass I run a sponge over the back of the paper and let it sit for a moment. Then with rough-fingered gardening gloves on, I begin rubbing the paper off. (I have learned to wear gloves, because I have previously rubbed the fingerprints off my fingers, making it difficult to log into my phone!). Once it dries, it’s easy to see how much paper is left to dissolve, and the second pass gets most of it off.  But there is always still another bit of white fog after they dry, meaning there is still more paper to dissolve. And you have to be careful – if you rub too hard, you will tear or pull off the thin film of toner embedded in acrylic medium.

Trimming any excess film off is also nerve-wracking, because you don’t want to nick the wood and have light spots interfere with the handsome laser-cut edges. This proved to be quite difficult to do on my interior interpolated holes.

Then I coated each page with wax medium and let it dry. This acts as a sealing varnish that, unlike most other varnishes, won’t stick to itself since the book is usually stored closed.  All in all, the coating, transfer, and varnishing phase takes another week.

The best way to see how this came out is in this video: Bark Beetle Book Vol. XXXIV page animation.

Binding

Finally, it’s time to bind the pages. I had included those 1 mm holes in the laser-cutting. Why did I include so many?!? Why did I make them so small!?!? In the binding method I used, modified Coptic, each station or hole requires its own needle. I didn’t have 36 needles that would fit into the holes with an eye large enough to accommodate my hand-dyed, 3-ply Kevlar thread. I had about 20 needles the right size and tried dipping the ends of the rest of the threads into glue to stiffen them, so they could act like shoelace aglets, but it was too slow and frustrating to get through the holes and wrap back around the stitches without needles. So several trips two different stores to acquire the right size needles.

At last I began binding, back to front. But not only did it take a long time to go over/in/out/wrap-around-the-stich and pull-through each of 36 stations, but when I coated each page with multiple layers of gloss medium, all the little sewing holes had become stopped up with acrylic. I had to take a nail and pound out each hole before I could sew the page.

Worse, by the time I got to the middle of the book and measured my remaining thread, I knew I hadn’t calculated the length of thread required correctly. My fall-back strategy was to begin binding front to back with new thread to meet and interlace in the middle. And of course I had to dye, dry and separate more thread. Two more weeks. And then…

Finally done!

Bark Beetle Book Vol. XXXIV: Resource Competition
Rear view
Half way through the book the beetles have taken over.
Near the end of the book, the manufactured wood is ahead.

The saddest of ironies

Twelve years ago I began painting portraits of individual burned boles because of my anxiety about the impacts of what is now a climate crisis.

I heard two days ago that one of my burned tree paintings has been removed from the path of a California fire. I hope with all my heart that my purchasers’ home is spared–yet I am so moved that they chose to rescue the work in the face of what must be thousands of concerns.

Blazed, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52″H x 20″W (2017).
The subject was a tree near Observation Point in Zion National Park.
This painting was #36 of what is now a series of 42.