THE ARTIST AS TRANSLATOR
by Donna Greenberg
"Artists aren’t recorders of reality, they are translators"
To Everything there is a season
With each change of season there comes along with it a subtle change of our perceptions. As the bright greens of summer give way to jewel tones of Autumn, yielding eventually to somber browns and greys, our eyes and moods adapt almost imperceptibly to accept each new normal. While it’s not too difficult to identify what we love about each new season, it’s often those unappreciated transitional spaces in between that go unseen unless we train our focus on them. These are the spaces I love to explore most.
Listening with your heart, speaking through your fingers
A woodland sojourn had me looking carefully at organic matter going through its own transitions. The network of holes revealing some of the ‘skeleton’ of a golden leaf in its last gasp gave me the sense of holding the past, present and future of this leaf in my hand all at once. The orange lichen creeping slowly on a nearby grey rock seemed to mirror the erratic pattern of the leaf in its own way and certainly had a strong direction. Here were two of my favorite themes, transition and movement, all within a few meters of each other.
Translating what I see and feel in nature into a piece of polymer leaf jewelry usually has me starting from my fingers out. The touch of clay in my hands informs my fingers which direction to take as I prefer to feel my way through the shape and textures with simple tools. At first, the concept of this becoming a brooch or necklace is just a small seed, sitting quietly in the back of my mind which is why I often make a number of leaves
before I choose which ones will technically work best. For this piece I settled on the purple beech leaf as its simpler shapewould allow me more ornate surface exploration. Adding color and texture with paints enriched the form and helped keep the important movement and transition flowing. Creating a lichen like secondary growth continued the energy. And, as I was now free to think in full jewelry mode, I allowed for the surprise of gilding my lichen for a touch of light-hearted sparkle.
What did I learn ?
- Before I pick up a piece of clay or tool, I carefully observe my local environment as I consider this to be my strongest and most important step.
- I look for surprises, such as the gilded lichen, to keep the work exciting and alive.
- I am not a recorder of reality, I am its translator.
At the Breakthrough2020 retreat you will
- compose with found objects
- solve technical problems to integrate these objects into composition,
- learn to translate and not just copy what you see.
- Does spending time in nature affect your mood?
- Can you tap into that particular mood and instill it into your piece?
- Can you discover nature even if you live in an urban environment? Where would you look for it?
- What is most likely to grab your attention first in your walks; form, texture, colour, lighting?