DeCompose / 2009 -
There is a fascinating microcosm in my woodpile, usually hidden from view. It’s a world of insects and fungi thriving in the inner layer between bark and wood. Certain beetles create precisely etched lines as they eat their way through the wood, leaving marks referred to by entomologists as beetle galleries. They chew, digest, poop, make babies and turn a giant tree into compost. These are works of art by creatures living their primal impulse.
I built a library of these images while splitting the firewood to heat my studio. Simultaneously I was making photographs of primal mark making by human beings on the outside of tree bark.
The oldest human-made marks are found in Sulawesi, Indonesia and were created 39,900 years ago. They placed their hands on the cave wall and blew pigmented dust to create a stenciled image. Of the many hundreds of photographs I have made of human mark-making on tree bark, the two most common are some form of ‘I was here’, or an expression of love.
One day while napping in the hammock by my creek I woke suddenly with a complete image in my mind. It was a collage made up of two separate images. One was a heart shaped scar from a carving on a Mimosa tree and the other was a beetle gallery from my woodpile.
My first reaction was I don’t do collage work like that. The I went straight to my studio and created the image I saw as I awoke. Each of the images in DeCompose is made by layering and blending one image from the beetle or fungi collection and one human made mark.