Art in the Time of Coronavirus, or, “The Big Tree”

AnimationDay01-28It will not surprise you to hear I made myself a massive, hunker-down, shelter-in-place project, now nearly three-quarters completed.

In January I received the people’s choice award at a local juried show. One option for the award is an exhibit on a large wall above the checkout counter at a nearby public library. Before the lockdown went into effect, I made it over there to check out the space. One side of the wall is 24 feet wide, with about 6 feet of vertical space. There is also a smaller wall on the other side of a central doorway.

I’ve always meant to try one of my burned tree paintings on the lengthwise axis of a roll of watercolor paper — but been intimidated by the time commitment required. With my beloved wilderness off-limits, I knew I needed something demanding to do.

When completed it will be 22 feet long (not quite an entire roll  of 30 feet : -) Since I don’t have room to work on something that big in my studio, I’m doing it in sections that will hang abutted. I figure if John Grade’s immense Middle Fork sculpture was created in sections, I can do it, too.

I’ll mount them so they can be hung either vertically or horizontally, though I expect most venues will need it to be horizontal.

Panels 1-6 of 7 at home lo res

Panels 1-6: I don’t have enough floor space in the largest room I have to lay them out!

Two friends independently dubbed it “Water Lilies of the Anthropocene.” While it’s nowhere near the size of Monet’s largest water lily paintings, it’s the largest of my 12-year preoccupation with wildland fires, as their remains increase in frequency and severity in our warming climate. The library is excited about it and plans to do some programming around it. I’m excited because lots of people will see it — whenever we can visit libraries once again.

I’ve just starting panel 7 of 7, at ~18.5 feet now. Between that and varnishing and mounting, I think it will take another 3-4 weeks. The animation at the top of this post represents 28 painting days, with 7 panel prep days as well.

We have all had plans and dreams interrupted by the virus. I wish us all good health, an easing of the stresses and strictures, and a chance to show what we’ve been working on during this pandemic siege.

UPDATE May 1, 2020:

Big Tree Final (4096x783)

The Big Tree,” Watercolor on torn paper, 49″ x 262″ (21’10”)

The painting portion is finally finished (there’s still varnishing, creating shaped boards to mount them on and mounting them to do).

My photos don’t quite do it justice — it is too large to lay out in any contiguous space in my studio, so each panel has been photographed separately and digitally composited. The color-matching across panels is more accurate in the painting than in these photos.

It’s fun to see it in its possible vertical orientation, too. One thing that surprised me: the panels also look surprisingly meaningful as separate side-by-side pieces.

Any suggestion for a title welcome!






8 comments on “Art in the Time of Coronavirus, or, “The Big Tree”

  1. Stunning in both scope and detail, Suze. If you still need a title, “Forces of Transformation” occurs to me since these times are forcing all of us to transform “normal” into exquisite alternatives.

    • Suze Woolf says:

      Thanks! A good suggestion.

      I was thinking of maybe 7 words or phrases that together make statement/poem/title, but haven’t been clever enough to come up with it…

  2. […] pandemic project gave me deep focus for the first 41 days. This blog post gives greater […]

  3. sandyhaight says:

    What a great project! Congratulations! I love how you get those charred areas so full of color and great darks!

    I haven’t tried the watercolor paper rolls yet as I heard that the curling of the paper is hard to flatten. Did you have to cut the sections and stretch them to make them flatten?

    Cheers! Sandy

    From: Rosemarys Blog Reply-To: suzeart Date: Monday, April 27, 2020 at 4:23 PM To: sandy haight Subject: [New post] Art in the Time of Coronavirus, or, “The Big Tree” Suze Woolf posted: “It will not surprise you to hear I made myself a massive, hunker-down, shelter-in-place project, now nearly three-quarters completed. In January I received the people’s choice award at a local juried show. One option for the award is an exhibit on a larg”

    • Suze Woolf says:

      I either sponge or spray the outside of the roll as I unroll it, either weighting or clipping the edges of my table as I go. Once it’s off the roll and trimmed to the size I want, if it’s still bubbling I will sometimes use an iron on “linen” setting with a piece of parchment paper (again, on the back side). The parchment paper keeps the sizing from rubbing off onto the iron. It also helps not to store the roll taped shut : – )

  4. annerose says:

    that is sooo fantastic! I am so impressed, what a beautiful and meaningful project. Thanks for making your work it means so much to me

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.