The completion of Grassland in sight

 

A couple of years ago, shortly after I arrived in Little Rock, I was traveling to the SPE SE Regional Conference with my friend and coworker, Carey Roberson. We were driving on the interstate and I was looking out the window at the fields and I confided to him an idea that I had been secretly considering for quite a while. “What if I did a series on grass?” I asked. “A series that just looks at all the amazing colors, the light, the beauty of tall grass.” Carey didn’t have a response to that. And I knew very well what my professors at school would have said. No one is interested in grass. Ever.

But I am interested in tall grass. It always catches my eye. The colors, the way it moves in the wind. The way it glows with life when the sun catches it. It is an ecosystem, teeming with life. It is nature, wild and gorgeous and unknowable, right there at our feet.

So I decided to work with grass. And I have done this for the last year and a half, in six works.

First, there was Grassland No. 1 and Grassland No. 2. These are photographs I placed on gilded panels.  The most interesting thing about these two works is the light. Because they are gilded underneath the image, which is hovering slightly above the gold, they have a depth, movement, and light in person that unfortunately doesn’t show in a photograph of the work.

image

image

Although both of these images are gridded, I became really interested in the idea of trying to compartmentalize life and how this need for understanding and perceived control is pervasive and ultimately futile. The rest of the Grassland series works with light, but also with this idea. First there was Grassland No. 3, my first experiment:

image

Then Grassland No. 4, which I like a lot but it is a fairly small work, being about 2 1/2 feet wide:

image

And then I jumped to Grassland No. 6. I was actually working on Grassland No. 5, and had made several iterations of it, but never one that passed muster. No. 6 was completed first. I made this diptych large–6′ tall, and 6 1/2′ wide by the time you count the space between the two panels. I do love this one. It comes the closest to embodying what I wanted in Grassland, although it becomes very abstract with the tesselation and becomes more of a feeling of light, color and movement.

image

Grassland No. 5 is almost complete. I wanted something that read clearly as grass, but still addressed the ideas of gridding  and movement. I printed and folded the work over the last week. The next step is to build a panel for it. I envision this work to have thin resin on it that is almost matte in its luster. This will make the surface too fragile to support itself like Grassland No. 3, 4 and 6. It will need a panel for support. Over the next couple of weeks, while I am simultaneously working on four other pieces (a new panel for Tarot XII, two as-yet-unnamed gum prints for the “And Then I Will See” series and a rework of a tessellated piece I ruined a few months ago) I will complete the panel and apply the resin to this work:

image

I still have not really made the artwork that is in my head. I want to make a huge piece, one that covers an entire wall. A massive, 20′ square undulating work that is life size of grass. The logistics of it have me stalled. For one, obviously this would have to be stitched together from multiple photographs. Grassland No. 5 and No. 6 are pinhole images, and I love these, although a long exposure on film might be enough to capture the movement and fluidity that I want in the grass. But stitching together photographs of wind-whipped grass is a difficult thing, since the subject won’t truly line up due to the movement. And stitching together 16 photographs (if I give a 5′ x 5′ square to each 4×5 film negative, and that’s if I give up my idea of life size grass in favor of enlarging it. Otherwise I would need even more than 16) would mean I would have to photograph the field from overhead. From a ladder, that many photographs would mean I would get horizon unless I did macro shots, which I am not interested in at all. This is supposed to be about the enormity of the grass field, not a macro view. How would I get this from overhead? And in a systematic way so that I could accurately grid the field with my images? Using 4×5 film, I would need to be able to work the camera. A drone would not do, even if I could afford to hire one. Digital would not permit me to enlarge the photograph enough to cover a 5’x5′ square, and frankly…I am not interested in digital.

And let’s say I am able to get the photographs. How would I link panels together so that they are seamless on the wall, but come apart for moving the work? And where on earth would I store something that huge? And how would I put it on the wall so that it had the dimensionally that I see in my head? And how would I AFFORD to make this work?

Believe it or not, I haven’t given up on making it. I think one day I will.  If I can figure out some of these issues, maybe sooner rather than later!  But this is why making art is a problem-solving activity that is not for the faint of heart. Wish me luck.

Copyright 2007-2013 Joli Livaudais. No reproduction without permission.