I recently finished reading The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years, along with Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction. Both of these books are about the big picture, about deep time and the interrelatedness of all things, living and non-living. The Invention of Nature is primarily about the life of Alexander von Humboldt and his impact on contemporary science and environmentalism, about his understanding of our impact on climate, and many other things, including his influence on people: Haeckel, Thoreau, Muir, and others. I hadn’t expected to find Haeckel in this book – or Thoreau or Muir for that matter – but it was a delightfully serendipitous encounter, as I’d been drawing diatoms based on Haeckel’s drawings. Haeckel’s depictions of these tiny creatures are so beautiful, so filled with flourish and fantastically obsessive intricacy. My own drawings are so slow to construct, built up from hundreds of tiny elements. Here is a photo of the first one in progress, far from finished:
Here are two more nudibranchs from Salt Point. The video shows (I think) a Cockerell’s Dorid. It’s right at the water line, and is hitching a free ride on a limpet. Or maybe trying to eat it? By the end of the video, you can see its foot and the rhinophores, yellow-tipped and feathery, in the lower left. The photo is of a tiny white-spotted Dorid (I think), about 2cm long, inside a mussel shell.
I’ve started a new work that has me, happily, back to shooting video in the tide pools at Salt Point. It means catching the tides and the weather at the right hour, on days when I’m in the area – a rare mix. Friday was a perfect day, and I was trying out a new borrowed camera, an Olympus TG-5. Day One: two nudibranch sitings! A good omen.
The very opening of Tacita Dean & Jeremy Millar’s book Place:
“The question, what is place? presents many difficulties. An examination of all the relevant facts seems to lead to different conclusions. Moreover, we have inherited nothing from previous thinkers, whether in the way of a statement of difficulties or of a solution.” – Aristotle, Book IV, The Physics
My place has changed. Since August, Steve and I have experienced three memorials. Ted, Chloe, Pam. Pockets of unwanted silence. We’re planning a memorial for the memorials, the two of us, a windy day at Salt Point. Just to let the wind do its thing. Fill us with howl.
June and July and nearly August…
As I listed these months, counting the time since my last post, a cover of “Fly Like an Eagle” by Tony Crown started playing in the background. It was a slow ghostly version of the old Steve Miller Band song, never heard this version before. Perfect synchronicity. Time keeps on slipping…
But I haven’t been sleeping by the sea. Gabriel Harrison chose a number of works during a studio visit in early spring, most of them recent, for a solo exhibit at Stanford called Cerulean Blues. He put together a beautiful installation, especially for Copepodilia: 64 images varying in size from 10″ x 8″ to 50″ x 40″. It was up for much of July and just closed yesterday.
One work was unresolvable – the photographs of collisions along the coast. I’ll figure it out eventually, but for now, I pared it down to just one image, same title as the show: Cerulean Blues.
Thanks to David Stroud for shooting this video of Pool at Hosfelt Gallery. It’s the most beautifully sunny gallery in all of San Francisco, so the video is a little pale. There’s a Nam June Paik piece across the room that’s an aquarium in an old wooden CRT television case, critters built out of vacuum tubes, with watery sounds and whale calls. You can see it in the background of the photos in the previous post. Perfect company!
Pool is finally up at Hosfelt Gallery. Well… it’s been up for two weeks, but I’m just getting around to posting some photos. So here’s how it works: Pool was shot in the tide pools of Salt Point from late January through April of this year. The video is projected onto the floor, passing through a large dish just below the projector holding about six liters of water. The central video shows a round pool of waves washing seaweed onto the shore, and you can hear the waves lapping over and over. Six round videos surround this central image, each representing a tide pool. Some of the pools show a wide shot of activity, a few are macro close-ups, one is primarily red creatures. There are two other sounds: seagulls and fog horns. The gulls and the foghorns are triggered by electronics, which in turn trigger motors fitted with paddles, which in turn churn the water, which in turn distorts the video with wave patterns. The gulls and fog horns sound infrequently, and give the sensation of peering through the waves.
this washed out of the woods last week:
I just ordered this book from a store in Oregon:
I ordered it, ostensibly, for the graduate seminar I’ll be teaching this spring on “professional practices” for artists. It’s good to have alternatives. While I wait, I’m indulging in a fantasy about this book: that it will give me great peace of mind, reassurance, and affirmation. It will be humorous, and it will make me believe that capitalism is a weak force in the universe.
Also while I wait, I continue to shoot video of tide pools for a new work in progress. I shot this footage above yesterday. In case it’s difficult to see what it is, it’s a hermit crab thrashing another hermit crab against a rock, over and over again. Yes, it’s a gif that I made out of about two seconds of footage, but I watched this happen for a good five minutes – all of it recorded – before the thrasher hauled the thrashee away in a huff. I imagine it was a huff. To any hermit crab experts out there, what was this all about? The thrashee is clearly smaller, much too small to donate it’s tiny shell to its abuser. I get stressed out, watching it… which makes me wonder why I made it.
I’ve just heard from Julia Krolik that our conversation about Copepodilia is now online:
Julia is one of the curators of the blog Art the Science, from a fascinating Canadian organization of the same name. Lots of great art to be found there; I’m honored to be included.
I mentioned these prints in an earlier post, but they’ve now grown even bigger, 30″ x 20″ on Arches rag. They still look crazily 3-d, with so much textural detail. I’m surprised they don’t smell like the sea.