Considering the fires…

June 29, 2012

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I hadn’t expected to connect the current raging Western fires to my artwork, occupying as they do, vastly different universes–one incomprehensibly hot and devastating, the other my quiet studio where I make digital art.

It seems self-serving to bring these landscapes together, but the photographs that have held my attention for two years–and are the foundation of my digital artwork–show a building strongly effected by Western fire, a place dear to my heart that melted in the Big Sur fire of 2008. It makes sense to speak of them together.

I am interested in the impact of human intervention in landscape as it relates to climate change: people make homes at the edge of wilderness, building houses that are sure to burn in an ever-heating climate. The scenes from Colorado make me sob. In the struggle to quell the blazes, perhaps now connections can be made between funding public services such as fire-fighting and receiving the services we’ve come to expect.

As a landscape painter along the continuum from representational to abstract, I’ve made paintings in response to places of vast natural beauty that I’ve experienced firsthand–in particular, where water and land interact, the mutable edge of one to the other. In nature, I take photos as an image notebook when compositions meet my eye; later in my studio, I work them into paintings.

Two years ago I extended my painting to a new medium, and entered the world of digital art-making, combining images of my particularly-abstract paintings with photos collected from the melted-building discovery. I could have applied a narrative of new growth emerging through destruction, but the topic was simply making new art out of new media from materials I had on hand.

The works are landscapes, pictorially and conceptually.

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Tin House is a series of five pigment prints on archival paper (http://www.janenorling.com/editions_page1.html), available in two sizes. They adhere to conventional rectangular image format with white border. Two of this series showed at ArtWorks Downtown in San Rafael CA in 2010, and in Berkeley CA’s Civic Center Art Exhibition 2010-2012.

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Fascinated with abstract patterns within each photograph of the building, I began creating sculptural shapes with the combined painting and photo imagery, isolating the shapes on white paper. In their abstraction, Tin House Cut Outs speak strongly to the presence of fire.

I continue painting landscapes, my first love. In addition, the curious new digital series, Tin House Cut Out, affords a new angle on abstraction, bringing in the illusion of sculpture, and touching back forty-five years to when I etched zinc plates down to practically nothing, then printed them.

Selections from Tin House Cut Out sold in May at benefit auctions for Kala Art Institute and at Venice ArtWalk for Venice Family Clinic. Three are included in “Landscape of the Mind,” Nash Gallery in Minneapolis (closing 6/30/12). Separate works have been juried into “Fresh Works” at Harrington Gallery, Pleasanton CA (closing 6/30/12); “Digital Mixed Media,” Petaluma Arts Center, Petaluma CA (opening 6/29/12); and “Crosscurrents,” Alameda Museum, Alameda CA (opening 7/6/12).

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