The phrase “If We Witness Growth” began as the title of an abstract drawing I created in 2017. The phrase stuck with me and I knew the idea of “witnessing growth” was worthy of further exploration in my landscape paintings. Writing the titles for my artwork is important to the process because it places the work within a larger story—it’s an ongoing journey through a land that is wondrous, unfamiliar and sometimes scary. I imagine the protagonist in this story (who sometimes explores alone, sometimes as part of fictional band of scientists) is clumsily and curiously trudging through a chaotic terrain.
These new acrylic paintings describe real-world environments that have been heightened from their natural color and closely cropped. Created over a span of six months this budding body of work has been deeply therapeutic. Immersing myself in the East Bay hills and dutifully tending my sliver of a garden has emerged as a form of self-care. In many of my roles outside of the art studio, I feel like I’m part of a barely functioning or totally broken system. As an educator, arts advocate and an athlete my successes are sometimes marred by confounding failures. Yet, I’m renewed by seeing a succulent plant brought home from my classroom slowly bursting back to life over summer break after 10 months of teenage manhandling. It’s in the intrigue I feel in visiting the same patch of moss everyday, and taking note of how and where it decides to spread its tendrils. It’s in the architectural marvel of a tiered polygonal spider’s web nestled into a hillside. I become aware that there’s an odd intelligence that exists in the plant world and I can scarcely understand it. I find comfort in watching the greens and browns at my feet proliferate without humans and in spite of humans. Something in this world is functioning and thriving as it should—even if doesn’t feel that way in the world of people.
Painting these delights of the forest is overwhelming and intimidating. Yet, I’m compelled to paint what I can barely visually process. What part of this web is closest to my eye? At what point do the rocks disappear into the darkness of an eroded cliff-face? As I begin to understand what lies beyond the foot path, I look for ways to organize the visual space. To paint a dancing array of pine needles or a moldy cavern wall, I gradually translate the information into a slurry of frothy brushstrokes that is totally abstract for most of the painting’s development. In a crawl towards logic, I begin to describe forms and render the spiny or the sagging or the dust-covered corners of the earth. I think of this method of painting as research to make my imagination better. In this work, I become a student of that which is at my feet. Altering and enhancing the color and quality of light in the landscape is a fascinating challenge. I desire to use color as a tool to wring every bit of emotion out of my subject. I want the viewer to feel the throb of a bulbous cliff fungus or the whining plea of a desiccated tuber.
If we witness growth…
after a fire
in the most fecund crevice
from the faintest of fissures
upon leaving work
and because of our gorgeous love
Will we provide care or give space?
Will we prop it up, will we rotate it around to face the afternoon sun? Will we return together to the woods? To bound down that rocky path and lets its uneven surface pound out the failure from our bodies.
Will you slow down and kneel with me,
To celebrate this lichen that has hungrily blanketed our favorite log?
Shall we soak in its success, and find our power in its progress?
-Jamie Treacy 2018