To organize the greens,
To gather the browns,
To give names to the sticks.
To witness the departing moisture
And the membrane that cradles each droplet.
To welcome the presence of cracks and mold,
To escape from the city
Into the refuge of a leafy arc.
When I think about a forest refuge, I consider the comfort but also the sensation of being removed from my normal surrounding and how necessary this removal is. The work in To Fortify the Forest is a deliberate visual escape. In the bizarre botanical world, I imagine a post-human swamp wrapped in ferns, I witness ladybug infestations and I fuse the familiar with the out of place. These quiet spaces are a stage–devoid of an active human presence where I quietly document then invent stories.
In a span of four years of artistic growth, a common thread has been my inclination toward forests and botanical worlds as a setting for experimentation. Beginning my creative process with photography, I gathered imagery from the Regional Parks in the Oakland Hills and the forests in my childhood home of West Michigan. In the painting studio, I hovered between faithfully representing a natural space as I witnessed it and combining photos into a fictional space. In the canvasses with the most “realistic” attention to my subject, the compositions occupy the genres of still-life and abstraction through extreme shifts in scale and cropping. A dense clustering of spiderwebs that act as a soft-focus filter on the forest floor. A festooning of droplets across a web and a pulsing mass of insects on an instinctual pilgrimage. My painting approach centered on exploring color’s role in summoning emotion. Can a cluster of muted orange sticks titillate? Can a protruding root bathed in dusk-light cause the shoulders to slacken? The afternoon fluorescence of a maple on the Lake Michigan coast–can it enliven a spirit?
As I culled through past paintings and added to the series over the summer, I realized my paintings of plant-laden spaces contained evidence of climate and landscape change. In the front lines of our drought I was seeing an increase of trees with their root structures exposed and ground coverings clinging to mere hints of green vitality. Then, this August, I was compelled to paint the garish summer leaf-scapes of Michigan. Branches who are glorious gluttons for warmth and rain: At their August peak, they are the envy of the thirsty California branch; but in their winter dormancy, they are a bleak network of umber veins against against an impenetrable sky. This contrast intrigued me.
To Fortify The Forest is an exaltation of the plant world. An invitation for an escape from logic and our controlled structures. An illumination of the outstanding realms that exist in our periphery.
-Jamie Treacy, 2015