Part of being an artist is responding to the world around you, not just what you have seen on your travels however small they may be and have taken to heart, but also partly due to where those travels took you for a purpose.
Yesterday, i travelled with part of the Contextural group out to the Leighton Art Centre near Millarville, Alberta. High on a hill, with breath taking views of the foothills, fields and blue blue enormous skies, what a knock out of a place for plein air painting! We were there however, to view the textiles collection created directly by the late Barbara Leighton. Alas, though her work is catalogued in the centre, there’s no online exhibit of it, something i do hope the curator and conservator Stephanie Doll will undertake. Fresh as the day they were made, and as contemporary as any done today, we were enthralled by yardages of batik, tie dye, block printing, many done with Procion which was “New” in the late 60’s and 70’s, and one mysteriously provenanced embroidery.
The intent for being there though was that we were scoping out the gallery space and tie-ing into the textile collection for a(n) (possible) exhibition in 2016. *That* was why we were out there!
Sadly, i have no photos myself, and am waiting for some to be shared by other members. Recall of something and the actuality of a thing are often completely different, yet i have made sketches of what i “remember”. Perhaps the trick of this is to work from the memory, even if it is faulty. When i have the photos, i plan a post on just that!
Outside, gathering my thoughts away from everyone (i don’t do well even in small crowds…), i wandered around the house and was attracted by something i saw in the attached conservatory. At first i thought it was a large artificial tree for “atmosphere”, to rid the view of un-ending snow and brown, but no. I was blown away (almost by the winds there, very windy area): it was a fully leafed 20 foot high OAK TREE. Inside. In April. In Alberta. Inside in April in Alberta. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I excitedly ran back inside to corner Stephanie and ask if i could have a few of the leaves. After explaining what i wanted to do to someone who was not familiar with the process, i was lead through the bowels, very interesting old bowels, of the house to the area where the tree was, and invited to take whatever i wanted. I didn’t grab a lot, knowing they might not work, and not wanting to strip even one branch. (Oh yes i did want to, i really did, but i minded my manners.) If they DID work, yes i would be sad i hadn’t got more, but if they didn’t, it would be less of a loss of cloth and time. Well, that’s the rationale of the moment at least. And if they work, i’m sure i can sweet talk Stephanie for a few more, even though there are oaks in my own neighbourhood. I want them from the Leighton Art Centre for a reason though!
The leaves that had fallen were like old pattern tissue or large ancient insect husks, they were so thin and brittle, so dry you could almost see through them, blow them away with a small passionately exhaled breath. I did succumb to temptation and plucked two whole live ones, making a total of 10 leaves, hustling them home in a separate bag, so they wouldn’t be crushed like stale potato chips, where i immediately immersed them in a sink of warm water for half an hour then wrapped them in plastic, and put them in the fridge.
This morning i thought i better use them before they further deteriorated, and noting they were somewhat pliable, slapped them on some tannin pre-mordanted cotton, did the usual fast and dirty with the dyebath for an hour and SQQQQQQQQQuEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, they worked.
The two on the left are dried on top and a fresh below, all three others moving right were dried ones.
The big one measured 13.5″ long and 7.5″ at its widest point–that’s one MIGHTY “mighty oak” leaf!
I love the centre vein detail of this one, almost mechanical:
Below, detail of the fresh left and the dried right:
I still have five left to play with as well.
Now yes, i have had much success with oak as an ecoprint material before, so what’s the big deal this time? The concern was because of the season and the growing conditions, that there might not be enough pigmentation. And i want to be able to use this for some work that will be a reaction/response/reference/artspeak-term-of-the-day to what i saw in the textiles we were shown. While i had formulated some general ideas about what i wanted to do, how perfect is it that i could be using materials from the site as well?????