Something from Nothing
In five decades, I have designed original creations in metal, timber, earth, shrubs, ice, foodstuffs, cardboard, blue jeans, glass, human hair, silk, the English language, fonts, woodblock prints and dryer lint. Native plants are my current favorite. These local species are robustly renewable, not to mention abundant and free.
My work with these plants began years ago when we moved into a house ringed by overgrown chamisa bushes in the seventh year of a prolonged dry spell. That summer, wildfires were breaking out everywhere. As a precaution I marked all the potential fuel sources within a 100 yard radius and gave the place a giant haircut. Then I stood back from the pile of branches and thought, “Do I have to go rent a trailer now, load this up and drop it at the dump?” I stashed the stuff in the arroyo and went to my drawing board.
Creating something from nothing has been a lifelong fascination. Much of my experimentation has taken place at the intersection between nature and art. I soon envisioned that pile of otherwise useless vegetation in the arroyo as an medium for sculpture. The plant is quite versatile, and as long as you are respectful you won’t offend Mother Nature by harvesting it. Six foot tall chamisas, where we live, can be cut to the quick in the spring and in two years, attain that height again.
This is nothing new. The ancestors surely constructed huts and enclosures with her hair and arms. I’d like to think I’m not the only modern day Santa Fean that’s embraced lady chamisa’s charms, but I haven’t seen any evidence of it and I’d like to.
I’m hoping to attract practitioners to this art form and start a regional trend. There must be talented men and women out there that can improve on what I’ve done. I’m offering to help make that happen. The field is literally wide open, just step up with pruners, pliers, wire and imagination, If necessary, come take a lesson.
From the instant I stood back and met my first creation, I was hooked. A human-like figure, larger than life, with limbs outstretched; a dancer came to mind, with the name “Misha”. And how’s this for merging of art with nature? If you approach Misha calmly, this early summer, you might catch site of some hatchlings in its chest. A tiny bird’s nest hides inside a hollow, their fledging and peeping, like a beating heart, all aflutter with spring.
Wouldn’t it be great to make a living, or at least part of one, by simply interacting with native plants? I would like to, and teach others how, as well. Even without cash back potential, it’s a healthy pastime, carried out in the fresh air and sunshine. Body and mind derive instant benefit.
The sculptures age gracefully. May they help me do so as well. Where I leave off Mother Nature takes over, to great effect. They possess a living presence because they are made from material with a living essence.Thirteen years later, Misha still straddles the worlds of art and nature, season-in and season-out, as majestically now as ever.
So this current collection of larger than life fantasy figures can be widely shared and enjoyed, we are currently searching for ideal locations with which to partner and pair. The title of the public exhibit will be “Fabrications of the Shrub-conscious Mind – 22 New 3D Designs in Chamisa, Apache Plume and Other Native Plants.
It’s been eight years since I have exhibited work in this medium. I’d give anything to come across a group of these figures all in one place, for the first time. I hope you get the chance.