Working With Natural Materials: BFA Project Proposal Pre-Writing

The central idea of my project is the transformation of natural materials and my own transformation through working with them. I will address questions of material acquisition, the history of processes, industrialization and how it changed the practice of handwork, and the value of biodiversity for human survival. My starting materials goals are to learn to make paints from earth pigments, inks from charcoal and plants, vine charcoal, and other art supplies through lots of practice. This work is important to me because I am upset at the way that the Earth is bioengineered for profit, disappointed that I don’t have a tradition of handwork with natural materials, and feel a strong connection with the harvest of natural materials, learning processes of working with them, and want to become part of communities that use them in order to grow as an artist. During the time of this exploration, I will not advance my skills in working with commercial painting materials very much, because I will not have time to do so. I will set forward with a humble attitude, and be open to the lessons that are revealed to me in this research. I have very little experience working with natural materials, so I run the risk of failing over and over again, but with the hopes that I can learn as much as possible. It can be difficult to be accepted into the role of a student within established communities, therefore I will try my best to listen very closely to the people that I talk to, and not be a burden. I will not appropriate concepts, but instead interpret the skills that I learn with permission, and give credit to the entities that teach me. My audience should know all of this, and hopefully question their understanding of what art is and how art materials affect the environment.

The context for this work is a world where humans are being taught a story within which our role is to destroy the Earth, go to space, and inhabit other planets. The impact of the mainstream story of climate change on people has allowed for a divisive debate in which people are too overworked to make a difference, leaving room for too much apathy. If we reframe our understanding of what Earth is, perhaps different narratives will emerge. Right now we are being offered limited choices by industrial capitalists. My work within this context seeks to develop my own dialogue with the Earth through art.

There are dialogues in existence between artists, natural materials and the planet, and I will learn what I can from them. Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, the local organization Trackers Earth and artists within their community, Gary Wiseman, Signal Fire, the PSU Native American Center and affiliated tribal members, ……..are all predecessors to my work, and serve in influential roles in my development. There will be specific examples of this in my work.

My research methods include reading, note taking, lectures, seminars, field trips, workshops, and online sources. There are several books that I am reading as part of this project, as well as websites and oral traditions that are woven into its evolution. Currently, the books that I am reading are,  Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments, and Epistemologies (Davis & Turpin), Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (Sternberg Press), The Organic Artist (Neddo), and Undermining: A Wild Ride Through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West (Lippard). Geographer Dr. Yi-Fu Tuan is an influence in my understanding of psychogeography. I am learning skills directly through the oral tradition by listening to practitioners of handwork with natural materials. Artists that I am asking to learn from and researching the work of include Gary Wiseman, Nick Neddo, Lucy Lippard, Natalie Jeremijenko, Lee Relvas, Rashid Johnson, Mark Dion, and others.

I will fill my time and space during the course of this year with drawing, photographs, readings, observations, recorded sound and video, walking, traveling, writing, discussions, questions, experiments, collections, and collaborations. I will plan discussions, workshops, and fieldtrips, come formulate questions, edit recordings to make sense of them, collect and organize artifacts, and collaborate on parts of the final body of work and the documentation of how it came to fruition. I am open to any options that come my way, strike my interest, and promise fun learning through exploration. I am interested in reaching epiphones through hard work.




. What question(s) will you address?

  • Why is this work (idea, issue, intuition) important to you? What is at stake for you? For your audience?

  • What is the context for this work?  How does your project relate to current issues in art, culture and/or community?

  • What artists, cultural or social phenomena, issues, events, experiences, etc. have influenced you? How does the work reflect on or engage them?

  • What kind of research will you do to support the work’s creation? Specific books, journals, web, interviews/oral histories, archives, etc. must be cited.

  • What activities help you sift through information (drawing, photographing, reading, observing, recording, walking, traveling, writing, discussing, questioning, experimenting, collecting, collaborating, etc.)?

  • What is your proposed  method of working? How does this process relate to your concept?

  • What media will you explore? How does this choice affect the the work? Are you open to other options?