Sugar Painting tests in Hoh National Rainforest, WA

My attempts to place the “sugar paintings” in both the Quinault and Hoh Rainforests were met with many challenges.

First of all, when I opened the box containing my carefully packed paintings, I found all of them to be broken.  Only the larges parts remained, which changed the composition entirely and made me sad.  But I persevered, seeing this as an opportunity to try working in the field.

My first attempt was in Quinault Rainforest.  After immediately losing my lens cap to my camera, due to the incessant rain and inability to maneuver a tarp/camera/painting/tripod like a pro, I realized my camera was getting wet.  I decided that my first attempt was a failure.  However, I left the forest literally giggling at how bad it had gone.  Andy Goldsworthy, I am not.

My second attempt was in the Hoh Rainforest.  This time, I pulled off the road at a fishing area and surveyed the scene ahead of time, leaving all the gear in the car.  After deciding on a tree covered in moss, I made several trips to set up the sugar painting, camera, and tripod under a tarp.  The rain was not heavy enough to melt the piece very fast…it was more of a light drizzle.  I sat for an hour using my camera to take time-lapse images every thirty seconds.  By the end, somehow I was soaked, but the painting had hardly changed.   However, while the camera was shooting, I roamed around a meadow.   I nearly ran into a group of deer that were so close I could almost touch them, and then I watched a slug eat a mushroom for about fifteen minutes.  I watched rain drip off moss.  I listened to the rain come and go.  I just absorbed it all.  It reminded me of the times I spent in both Bali, and in  Northeast Tennessee, when I lived for a short time in the country.  I spent a lot of time looking at spider webs, lightning bugs, drifting fog…watching the grass grow.  I remember nearly all of those moments… because something about being in that kind of lush environment makes me fully present.  It always has. Its almost as if I can feel the life transforming around me.

Anyway, that was the gift that day from the sugar painting attempt number two in the Hoh.  I packed up my stuff and put the piece back in the car, disappointed again in the work but enriched by the overall experience.

Attempt number three was a success, sort of.  After hiking into a remote area past Lake Crescent, WA, I found a small waterfall area with moss that was accessible for my tripod, while providing perfect lighting and shelter from the rain.  Although I had to hike back to the car to retrieve equipment, it affirmed the importance of scouting an area before dragging the gear.  I set the broken sugar piece in the waterfall and recorded about a half hour of its decay.   I decided to STOP the process before the entire thing resolved.   I quite like this aspect of the project.  I will bring this half decayed piece to the residency.

Overall, the dissolving sugar paintings project did not really bring me much joy.   I did not really like working “in the field” as much as I had thought I would.  It felt forced, with too many variables for such a complicated desired outcome.  Furthermore, to capture the deterioration in the way I would REALLY like to would require a camera set up for several days to a week, recording the erosion of the piece from weather and insects.  I will continue to thing about this idea over the next few weeks, possibly creating a new project for next semester.  Potentially, I could recreate a mossy environment in my studio, where all aspects could be controlled.

What I DID gain from this project was a renewed sense of awe and wonder at the cyclical nature of ecosystems, and a desire to breathe life back into my work again.  I think a personal sadness and general feeling of “lost” this past year has manifested in work that is dry, dark, and depressing.  When I truly think about what fascinates me in regards to making my work, it is the regenerative processes of nature, their ability to exist in difficult environments, and their beautiful evolved adaptations for procreation.  These things are just as important as decay, loss, and degeneration.  It is all part of the same system, and thus, the same story.


One thought on “Sugar Painting tests in Hoh National Rainforest, WA

  1. That is the lesson of nature: that you cannot control nature. 🙂 Too me, it seems like your expedition was a great success, in that regard. (It’s funny…this is what the bees taught me, but then I learned to enjoy the lack of control!)

    I love watching your journey, Regan.

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