June 26, 2016

Of Nature's Stories, Land Art, and Morning Altars

The first time I chanced upon the idea of nature/land/earth art was when I glimpsed sculptor, photographer, and environmentalist, Andy Goldsworthy's work in The Clothes Horse's blog. I was simply enchanted by the notion of abstracting stunning site-specific art from natural surroundings, putting together fallen leaves, branches, twigs, flowers, seeds, and fruit, rocks, pebbles, and feathers into art that entirely and literally emerges from and connects to the earth, seamlessly integrating itself into the environment.  I have been lately been pinning a ton of land art on my Pinterest and have discovered examples which left me breathless and marvelling at the artists' ingenuity and creativity, such as swirling twig waters around a boulder, stone paths in forests, and stone sculptures silhouetted against the sky. Here's a gorgeous Andy Goldsworthy in which he arranges numerous stones in graduated shades of gray to form an existential black hole of sorts in the vast universe that is nature.

After seeing scores and scores of incredible land art works, I wondered if I too could create miniature examples myself; a little bit of researching led me to realise that I had been partially doing it with the fallen flowers, seeds, seed-pods, and fruit I found during my morning walks. Having photographed the trees and plants, I found myself engaging with the gifts that they left for the earth - and for us to discover. I sometimes arranged what I found in a simple pattern or grid format, displaying the diversity of what I had found; it reflected both the species growing in my immediate environment as being season-specific, such as summer displaying a great deal of gulmohur and laburnum, for example. This earth art below below depicts the various stages of a gulmohur bloom that I found in one of my favorite neighborhood parks: bud, budding, blooming, bloom, and flower itself.

Yesterday, after posting a picture of my walk finds: a peepal tree leaf, bougainvillea, gulmohur petals, and a branch of lime green neem fruit on Instagram, Day Schildkret of Morning Altars liked it and which fortuitously led me to explore more of his work. I was intrigued by what he is doing: creating gorgeous, intricate morning altars, foraging from his surroundings to create the most exquisitely detailed works. It celebrates the ephemeral and the deeply rooted, nature with all of its bountiful glories and its cycles of death, rebirth, and growth. Here's one of his morning altars dedicated to spring below:

Inspired by his morning altars, I decided to create one of my own today morning. In the park, it was quiet except for the birds twittering and the sound of plum yellow neem fruit plopping on the ground; this was the background to which I created my first altar wrought from bougainvillea, laburnum, and gulmohur flowers and champak and bougainvilleas leaves. It celebrates the joy these nature's morning colors gives me and to brighten my day ahead, the little joys that I derive from these nature gifts and compensating for potential challenges and disappointments that may lie ahead in the day. Of course, I do wonder what will become of them once I leave...will nature find a way to make its own unique installation out of them?

I enjoyed the process so much that I ended up creating two more earth art works later today from found champak flowers, leaves, and neem fruit:

This activity gives me much peace as well as making me aware of the healing, restorative, and creative powers of nature; I find myself contemplating and appreciating nature's diverse manifestations much more closely. In this age, when we are battling climate change, habitat destruction, species' extinction, and many other depressing stories of environmental degradation, it powerfully drives home the message that we can no longer take nature and stories for granted for it may potentially disappear one day; let us hear its stories and more importantly, strive to conserve and preserve them.

Have you ever made impermanent art? I would love to hear!

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