visual artist

Photo by Xiomara Castro

stria |ˈstrīə| noun (pl. striae |ˈstrī-ē| )

Technical a linear mark, slight ridge, or groove on a surface, often one of a number of similar parallel features.

Anatomical any of a number of longitudinal collections of nerve fibers in the brain.

Writing about this body of work keeps bringing up a memory of the eerie hills of Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It’s been 15 years since I saw those striped and cross-contoured hills  and their image still fuels my work. I was fascinated by the bands of color that wrap around the outcroppings, that seem to simultaneously swell up from and erode into the earth. I camped among those hills as a college student, and remember feeling like I had entered into an extraterrestrial expanse.  Even the water in the valley creeks was bizarre.  Fine pale gray sediment mixed with the water near my campsite, creating a river of milk.  I couldn’t resist wading through it.  Waist-deep in the opaque, churning waterway, fearful of a surprise slither from a hidden snake, I immersed myself in the history illustrated in the hills’ striations.

I remain fascinated with how the earth builds its forms. In tandem, I’m fascinated by the way living beings are held together with strands, fibers and membranes.  When I first looked up the word “striation” I realized how well it described this internal landscape I wanted to create, and also guides the way I want to work as an artist.  The pieces in Striation are built with visible marks and parts.  I’ve used cut strips of paper, drawn marks, surface rubbings and brushstrokes.  As a painter, I’m captivated by how my hand-drawn, painted or cut marks sometimes exist as independent objects – much the way small mosaic tile fragments separate from their whole when viewed up close – but also by how optical mixing occurs from further away, when the stria merge into the larger form in which they support. Each medium I’ve included is integral to the finished surface and the content of the painting.  Each work is part painting and part drawing, and in many works, part collage.  In the past I’ve only used cut paper for hard-edged graphic shapes, but in these paintings, delicate transparent papers are layered to obscure, and embed shapes beneath. Colored pencil is also an important addition because of it’s ability to subtly alter color, while enhancing the bumps and ridges in the paper fibers.

Photo by Xiomara Castro

For the last 10 years, I’ve used the terms “fictional landscape” and “internal worlds” to describe my painted environments. However, with this new work, I’ve challenged my own understanding of the landscape as a backdrop for living things to occupy. The swellings and depressions of land have actually become part of the story I want to tell. In the same way I’ve felt a lasting and emotional link to the painfully gorgeous Badlands hills, I want to create geologic and biologic forms that extend filaments of emotion to the viewer, to blur the lines between the setting and the characters within the setting.

The real-life terrors of drought, climate change and industrial waste were heavily present as I created these works. In the same way that science-fiction writers hold a mirror up to society to help us examine our world, I hope to do the same through my paintings.  In addition to the barrenness  of the Badlands, I’ve been inspired by diatoms (a type of algae), starfish and the chemical sludge lakes in China. All of these sources speak to the duality of our environment: its power and its vulnerability. While considering these works, I invite the viewer to look on the periphery of our infrastructure–into the soil, the water and the atmosphere–and to see ourselves as ingredients in a grand structure.

-Jamie Treacy,  May 2015