On the studio table and in the woods
Moss and bark and twigs have overtaken my studio table and floor these days as I work on my pieces for the Adkins Arboretum exhibition. Here are a few glimpses on what I have been working on. Part of the invitational to participate in this exhibit expressed that the work needed to be in dialogue with the arboretum. Over a month ago I went to the arboretum to pick out spots and see what spoke to me.
This chair like stump covered in moss caught my eye and imagination. I will be again making another mossy book, but this one will be different than the first one I made. The first book I was playing around with the old wives tale of using moss as a compass- I stitched a map of the trail on one of the pages; writing on bark about where moss grows was stitched in. As you can see in the photo of the previous link, I stitched a compass on the cover. This book is going to be more about the moss as being such an integral part of the interconnectedness of life of our ecosystems.
Did you know that moss is often thought of as “first responders”? They are able to remove toxins from water. And often after an environment has been devastated, moss is the first life to reappear. In Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, she writes:
“The sensitivity of moss to air pollution makes them useful as biological monitors of contamination. Different moss species are tolerant of varying levels of pollution in highly predictable ways. The type of mosses present on a tree can be used as a measurement of air quality….”
She goes on to say for us city dwellers, “Next time the bus is late, take those waiting minutes to look around for signs of life. Mosses on the trees are a good sign, their absence a concern.”
Two pages in progress:
I feel like I should add that I do not harvest my own moss for my work. I like to leave moss alone in the woods, on the trees, or on the ground doing what they need to do. Who am I to disturb a 20+ year process of growth and life? So I order my moss. In fact, it is illegal in some places to harvest moss. To understand a bit more about this, here’s an interesting article on the issues concerning moss picking.
I recently was accepted into a program that is run through Lake Roland Park by University of Maryland extension program to become trained as a Master Naturalist for Maryland’s piedmont region. I learn all about the flora and fauna, the natural history, ecology and environmental concerns in the region. I am really excited about this opportunity to really deepen my knowledge and I know that it will feed into my artwork. It really is a marriage of two of my passions- environmental concerns and my art.
I attend lectures, and then we get to do field work to put what we’re learning into practice. Of course I took photos while out on the trails.