Our Inheritance: Inherit the Earth

Bridgette Guerzon Mills | Inherit the Earth, encaustic mixed media, 24 1/2 x 19 inches, currently at Higher Art Gallery

I am thrilled to share that I was invited to be part of a small group show called “Our Inheritance“, a visual & live storytelling exploration of what gets passed down through the generations, at the Higher Art Gallery in Traverse City, Michigan. Exhibit runs May 10th-June 1st. Reception is May 25th and will include live storytelling by local tellers. A portion of the proceeds from this event will go to Enjinaabiigigeying (the place where we weave), a studio which is run by Anishinaabe weaver, Renée Dillard. This studio enables a vital part of native culture to be preserved and passed down to future generations.

Proud to be showing with these other artists: Shanny Brooke, Kim Kleinhardt, Ann Willey, and Michelle Tock York

I was asked to submit a piece of writing to go along with my art, and yeah, you know me, I was all up for it! I want to share what I wrote here on my blog as it really sums up my mixed media work in general.

Inherit the Earth

I am drawn to stories. I like to read them, hear them and in my work to tell them through visual and tactile symbols.  Stories are about connection, connecting to the world, to others and back to oneself. I want to tell visual stories that help us remember that we are of the earth, just like the trees, the grass, and the rivers.

The materials in this piece themselves are from found and upcycled materials, like old linens and vintage cloth napkins, and bring in their own stories individually. They had past lives that we can only imagine, and they add a layer of meaning to the surface. The pieces of fabric are held together by encaustic medium, which is an ancient medium made of beeswax and damar resin, as well as hand stitching. Hand stitching in my work always refers to mending and healing, and the idea that we are all connected.

The tree that is the central image in this piece is a photograph printed on silk.  There is a reason that trees most often appear in the origin stories in different cultures and religions around the world. Trees are often seen as ladders or a bridge between the worlds- world above and the world below. They are often a vital structure of the universe or the beginnings of life or are the source of wisdom and knowledge. Our human nature recognized that our lives are vitally connected to trees and have always incorporated them into our stories.

Beneath the tree image, are three small french knots sewn in the grass symbolizing seeds. Below the seeds are red threads that loop under the tree, mimicking tree rings that also hold the tree’s  history. They can also refer to roots and being rooted into the earth. A graphite drawing of a seed pod sits beneath the rings. Seeds hold stories as well. They are past, present and our future. Seeds contain all the information within itself about the right conditions for growth in its environment. Within the seed is a secret- that the seed contains stories of our inheritance to pass on to future generations.

While I am a suburban dweller and in the past have lived in big cities, I cannot pretend that I have this profound and deep intimate connection to the land.  And yet, I know it is true. Is it possible to get back to that truth, when one has been divorced from living in close relation to the earth? My art making serves as a way for me to touch that knowing…I am starting to understand this. The earth is our story and who we are and where we come from, and this is what I want to pass on. If we recognize ourselves in the earth’s story then we will protect it and nurture it.

“We are a landscape of all we have seen.” – Isamu Noguchi

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