Shelburne Inspirations, Part 3

I may no longer work at Shelburne Museum, but I'm still finishing up some works inspired by it.

When I first started exploring the Museum, I was immediately struck with its gardens, and especially its trees. The grounds are replete with apple and cherry trees, and throughout my first summer here I found myself returning to them with my sketchbook.

The landscape at the Museum has been shifting though, to make way for the new, year-round building opening in August. Most of the trees are still around, but some of the cherry trees that I loved to draw, including the ones you see in this photograph, had to be taken down.

With the disappearance of these trees, my sketches took on a new meaning. They were no longer simply studies or exercises, but visual documents of a landscape that no longer exists. Yet my drawings are not objective recordings. Like human memory itself, they are subjective in nature, with the colors, lines, and overall composition reflecting my own perspectives and preferences. My sketches are a visual memory, but they are the creation of all my life's experiences,  not just the scene I was lucky enough to sketch one summer evening.

I decided to explore this idea, of memory as a living, kinetic entity, in an experimental print. I started by making a drypoint of two cherry trees I'd sketched. Yes, the chair was there too.

I covered this initial scene with a series of translucent monotypes. My first monotype layer takes its colors from the sunset palette. It was typically dusk when I sketched at this spot, so I wanted to pay homage to those summer evenings.

I then took a sheet of plastic wrap, wrinkled it, and daubed it across the plate in order to give the monotype a nervous, kinetic appearance, as though it were composed of dancing microbes rather than brushstrokes.

Once I had done that, I printed my monotype over the drypoint.

Next I added a second monotype, but this time I used a different piece of broken Plexiglas to divide the print into distinct sections. I used green to evoke the Museum's lawns. I also drew some decoys I'd sketched from the collections, though for no particular reason other than that I like them.

I used the same Plexi shard for one more monotype, this time in purple. Once I had that, I took my pen and ink and drew two neurons, the creators and transmitters of memory.

To help the neurons stand out, I colored them in with some of my monotype inks.

The final result was more cartoonish than I had expected, and I may tinker with this further. At this point, this isn't so much a finished piece as it is an experiment for future works, and an opportunity to work out some ideas before I launch in to a more ambitious series.

Shelburne has been on my mind, but lest you think that all I've been doing is wallowing in the past of my former Vermont life, here's a chest of drawers I've been repainting that looks ahead to the Southwest.

Chest of drawers, before: perfectly functional, and utterly boring

Chest of drawers, after. The color is redder than it appears here, and not as orange as it looks below.

Trompe l'oeil detail of morning sphinx moths, a fairly common species out west

After all, I refuse to haul insipid furniture with me across the country.