Willowtail for the Third Time

I recently completed a third visit to Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve near Mancos, Colorado. (See also Colorado-Utah-Colorado and Willowtail Springs Residency.) It was a very productive time for me: I was able to complete three of my individual portraits of burned trees in relatively few but long and intense days, compared to what it takes me at home.

The cedar on the right is the largest burned tree I’ve done yet; at its base it’s nearly as wide as it’s tall, and presents a raft of new storage and presentation problems to solve : – ).

I did a few hikes in the Lizard Head Wilderness with its first few inches of snow, and managed to start a few small landscapes from those hikes as well. I got together with my collaborator Lorena Willams, who wrote the stories that appear in the “State of the Forest” installation now on tour.

While there, I wrote this short essay on the value of their residency program:

What is the value of an artist residency to an artist?

It is the opportunity to think and work surrounded by peace and beauty — with very little distraction.[1] Like any traveler, being in a new or less familiar place is refreshing and liberating; seeing new sights can literally change a point of view. For an artist, this can result in fixed ideas or long-term directions being altered or upended or in others a renewed commitment to a body of work.

For me, three visits to Willowtail have been primarily the latter. I have two bodies of work relevant to its southwest Colorado environment – an eleven-year series of large paintings of individual burned trees and a three-year series of artist books about bark beetles, using the wood and bark of their target trees as medium. Since these are preoccupations for much of the region, I found not only a personal welcome but professional interest in the work.

What is the impact of the residency on the artist and more widely?

Something I have experienced in every residency is some surprise I could not have predicted. Two years ago, Willowtail received a Winifred Johnson Clive Foundation grant to foster a collaboration. I was paired together with Durango author and wildland firefighter Lorena Williams, enriching and deepening the burned tree body of work. Her stories, together with my paintings, have resulted in several exhibitions not only in traditional art venues, like galleries and museums,[2] but also in downtown storefronts[3] and community centers.[4]

Some 30 of these paintings have been digitally printed on three layers of fabric: a transparent, a solid and a black or black-plus-text layer with Lorena’s stories on half of them. This installation, called “State of the Forest,” is currently touring regional art and science museums around the U.S. and Canada for the next 2.5 years.[5]

Why do you come back to Willowtail?

I’ve already mentioned peace and beauty. The quirky décor, living conscientiously on the land, and facilitation in the local art community are also appreciated. But more importantly, Peggy and Lee Cloy offer something unusual in the artist residency world: deep personal interest. In large programs an artist can feel a bit  like a transfer student in an overcrowded high school. Here the sense of belief and support of the specific individual’s endeavor is appreciative, consistent and tangible.

[1] By my estimate, I am ~200-250% more productive than in my own studio.

[2] Plasteel Gallery, Seattle; Arnica Gallery, Kamloops BC; Lake Country Gallery, Vernon BC; US Botanical Museum, Washington DC; Museum of Northwest Art, La Conner WA; San Juan Islands Museum of Art, Friday Harbor, WA; Kirkland Arts Center, Kirkland WA; Green River College, WA; Seattle City Hall, WA and others.

[3] Shunpike Storefront grant, amazon HQ Republican Street windows, Seattle; summer 2018. See https://storefrontsseattle.com/ near the end of the page.

[4] “Conversations through the Smoke” toured small towns in Idaho as part of a University of Idaho/US Forest Service community fire resiliency campaign. https://www.nrfirescience.org/event/conversations-through-smoke-traveling-art-exhibition

[5] The itinerary is here: https://www.davidjwagnerllc.com/Environmental_Impact-Sequel.html

 

Suze’s Art News June 2019

(This is the most recent newsletter update I sent to my mailing list. Sign up if you’d like to receive it in your inbox!)

Hello, it’s been a while.
This is an overdue update of everything happening now and a look back at events past. 2018-2019 has been a whirlwind and I am excited to share that with all of you. Thanks for your interest!

Workshops
“Watercolor on the Move: Practical Plein Air”
Gage Academy Workshops
July 20-21
Saturday-Sunday 9:30 A.M. – 4:30 P.M.
For those in the Seattle area, I will be teaching watercolor once again at Gage Academy. Sign up for the workshop if you’d like to learn more about how I go about doing plein air — painting outdoors from life.
Top: Zion Light, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″ (sold);
Bottom:
The Three Little Pigs (Gasworks) watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

Above the Checkerboard Mesa Viewpoint (1024x754)
Gasworks
Upcoming Shows
Davenport Cellars, Woodinville WA
June 5 – early September 2019
The theme is “beautiful and disturbing landscapes,” scenic views of the public lands contrasted with burned-over landscapes.
Top: Frisco Again, watercolor on paper 11″ x 15″
Bottom:
The Landscape of Fire (rotated) 52″ x 15″
Frisco Again (1024x760)
TheLandscapeofFireRotated
Puget Sound Book Arts (PSBA) Annual Member Exhibit 
June 6- July 31, 2019
University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA Collins Library
Two of my bark beetle books are on display.
Top, Volume XXIV: What the Beetles Wrote
Bottom
: Volume XXI: The Curve of Loss
vol xxiv composite (764x1024)
VolXXIcomposite
Food Art Collection, Seattle
The quiet existentialism of discrete fruits and vegetables
July 14th, 2019 Opening 1-3 P.M.
In July I will be showcasing something new, a series of vegetable paintings. I began them as class demonstrations and soon realized that the process of trying to free up my students’ work was freeing up mine. Apropos to none of my other work, but enjoyable and satisfying. Come see what we serve up at the opening! (See this meditation on why here.)
Top: Swiss Chard, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″
Bottom: Long radishes, watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″ (sold)
Chard (1024x759)
Long radishes (1024x767)
Anacortes Arts Festival 
July 27 – August 4th, 2019
Opening July 27
The annual juried exhibit; this year Joanna Sykes is the juror. Three of my bark beetle books will be on display. (Recipient of the T Bailey Corporate Award)
Top: Bark Beetle Book Volume XXV: Outbreak
Bottom: Bark Beetle Book Volume X: Encyclopedia Beetletainia
Vol XXV Composite 3 (1024x458)
Vol X Encyclopedia Beetletania composite
State of the Forest Installation in Environmental Impact Sequel
James Museum, St Petersburg, FL
August – November 2019
This is the first stop on a touring exhibit that focuses on the environmental impact of climate change. Thirty of my burned tree portraits will be suspended, in floating fabric media to evoke the fragility of forests. Fourteen of them have Lorena Williams‘ fire stories printed on the back layer of the set. I look forward to presenting my work in this way.
Top: State of the Forest, 10 of a 30 tree installation. Bottom: Detail of the three layers for each tree, black, solid print and transparent print (Jonathan T. Bishop photos)
State of the Forest 10 trees-2 (1024x683)
Tauromachia fabric detail (1024x683)
Slash & Burn
Seattle City Hall
September 5 – November 5, 2019
If you missed this repeat exhibit at Green River College earlier in the year, “Slash & Burn” will be presented again at Seattle City Hall. I’ve contributed several burned tree portraits and bark beetle books.
Top: Okanagan Iridescence, varnished watercolor on torn paper, 52″H x 20″ (rotated)
Bottom: Bark beetle book Volume XII: Buprestid Katakana
Okanagan Irridescence rotated
Buprestid Katakana 2 (1024x785)
Columbia City Gallery 20th Anniversary Book Arts Exhibit:
The Book as Art: The Page and Beyond
Seattle, WA
September – November, 2019
This show will focus on finely crafted books that explore a variety of structures and books that can challenge traditional notions of a book and page.
Columbia City Gallery logo
All Stitched Up
University of Puget Sound Collins Library
Tacoma, WA
September 3 – December 11, 2019
A recent bark beetle book will be exhibited.
Volume XXII, Scolytid Lifecycle
Vol22detail

 

Willowtail Residency
Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve
Mancos, Colorado
In late October I make my way back to Mancos, Colorado, for my fourth return to Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve. I’ll have an opportunity to work with author Lorena Williams on the stories that accompany the State of the Forest installation above.Zion Centennial “100 Objects – 100 Images”
Zion Plein Air Invitational
Zion National Park, Utah
November 6-10, 2019
I am honored to be invited out for my 8th season during the Centennial of Zion National Park and Zion Plein Air Invitational. The Centennial will be celebrated through the art and history of this magical place via the exhibition “100 Objects – 100 Images”, beginning September 15th, continuing through and during the traditional plein air week. I look forward to sharing more as the year goes by so stay tuned for more details.“Word | Image | Object”
July 2019 – January 2020
An artist book exhibit organized by Abcedarian Gallery in the main Denver Public Library. My small beetle-chewed branch books contain Melinda Mueller poetry about bark beetles.
Bark beetle book Volume XIX: Poetry Sticks
VolXIXcomposite
A Long Overdue Recap of 2018 and Previous Events

booksaboutbarkbeetles
Thank you, friends and followers, for seeing me through another year, and I hope to catch you at home and out in my travels.
SuzeFontSignature

Jentel Sojourn

Packed for departure

Once again, the car is packed and ready to drive 1000 miles.

In August-September I was among the fortunate recipients of a spot at the Jentel Foundation’s artist residency in north central Wyoming. There is always something that surprises me in every residency I attend – the pleasure of writers reading works-in-progress at Vermont Studio Center; extraordinary modern classical music at The Banff Centre, and so on. Here, I didn’t expect to find pockets of the British Empire among the sage hills of the Big Horn Mountains. In the 19th century a number of English second/third/fourth sons left the mother country and bought cattle ranches. The Big Horn polo club was established in 1898. One local family married back into the Queen’s retinue, so on her 1984 visit, she stopped in Sheridan, community of ~17,000 in north central Wyoming.

My other discovery was the banded-gneiss hard-rock core of the Big Horn Mountains. It’s 3 billion years old – two-thirds the age of the planet – and a billion years older than the Vishnu schists at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The cirques near the divide offer massive faces. Besides rock glacier obstacles to easy hiking (in some cases I made less than a mile an hour), its high elevation (for West-Coaster used to sea-level), this age alone seems worthy of respect.

Second Lost Twin Lake (751x1024)

Second Lost Twin Lake (watercolor on paper, 15″x 11″)

My four fellow visual artists and two writers were good company when I wasn’t off working or walking. The studio spaces are large and cool – important when you’re there in the hot summer months; in our case we also endured many days of thick smoke from Montana and Canada wildfires. I pursued my usual strategy of hiking a day, drawing and painting on location, then “resting” by painting or book-binding all day.

Suze in Jentel studio (2)

In my Jentel studio (Steve Price photo)

I worked very hard on a beetle book inspired by beautiful slabs of Alaska yellow cedar bored by Buprestid beetles. But after the 80 hours or so it took to finish my interior pages – I just didn’t think they were commensurate with the beauty of the wood. After creating the files to get mat board laser-cut, tracing the beetle galleries I’d seen in the 1988 Lost Fire area of the Big Horns, tea-dying 22 pieces of fragile antique rice paper (with a pattern that looks a bit like wood grain), applying Scotch 568 adhesive, gluing the rice paper to the mat board and dissolving the adhesive in the gallery areas, using a wood-burning tool to outline the galleries… It was very depressing. It took several weeks before I could face scraping off the rice paper and starting over.

Vol. XIII

Bark beetle book Volume XIII, page binding in progress. Maybe Thirteen is jinxed?

In the meantime, because I was in Wyoming surrounded by cowboy culture, and because I’d visited Kings Saddlery on our weekly forays into Sheridan, it occurred to me to try making the pages out of debossed leather. As usual in my book projects, this required learning about processes and skills entirely new to me, and multiple tests of methods.

Buprestid Katakana 5 (970x1024)

Front cover, Buprestid Kanakata (Cedar, leather, linen thread; 9″ x 7″ x 4″)

Buprestid Katakana 6 (1024x602)

Bottom edge

Buprestid Katakana 2 (1024x785)

Last page

All this effort reminds me that the more I follow the many paths my obsessions take me, the closer I think artwork is to science and engineering. I wish all these years I’d been keeping a lab book – preferably searchable – of all the tests of materials and methods I’ve made. It would be easier than pawing through my boxes and boxes of samples with barely readable notes scratched on them.

 

Community and what I’ve learned about it here

I’m sure I’m not the first to observe that the level of sociability is inversely proportional to the number of people in the society. Stehekin is the smallest town I’ve ever been in for more than a night, but I have been acknowledged, made to feel welcome, introduced to a head-swimming number of people, invited for dinner, waved at on the road…

The story I hear is becoming familiar: “I came for the outdoors, but stayed for the community.” I’m equally sure I can apply the behaviors at home: greet everyone, even if you don’t agree with some aspect of their lives; help others get what they need to do done; and above all, celebrate the place you share.

Suze Woolf display at Harvest Fest, Stehekin WA

Suze and work on display at Harvest Fest, the annual Stehekin cider pressing. This year it was held at the school since the Buckner Orchard is part of the closed national park.