prairie long poems

magnus/cathedral. Fifth in this series, and took a little time to get done! (click on the image to see it better). Also screenprinting and drawing on plywood and steel (the steel is also etched). The two outside images originated from a camping trip I took a year ago to the Fraser River grasslands area in British Columbia, Canada, just west of the small town of Clinton. The area is not easily accessible as much of it is used as grazing land by ranchers in the area, so it's polite, if not completely necessary, to ask them for permission to go onto the land and to sometimes unlock gates for vehicular access. Getting down to the actual river is also not easy, as the grasslands are terraces of glacial moraine deposited in what is now the Fraser River valley, which have been deeply cut into by the river. The area is quite arid, and what grasses do grow are sparse most of the year and mixed in with a variety of small but very sharp cacti. The best way to get around is on foot, with tough boots of course, or on horseback, but the trip is worth it. I noticed with growing curiosity that every few miles there would be a small hut which most Canadians would recognize as of standard campsite outhouse design. The story goes that there were plans by the government to develop a park in this area, which did not happen, thankfully, as the ecosystem is extremely delicate. Nevertheless, outhouses had been ordered (our governments always know where their priorities lie!), which arrived in town and had no place to go, so to speak. Local ranchers offered to take them off the government's hands, for a reasonable price of course, and now use them to store mineral blocks that their cattle and other wildlife need to supplement their diets. In the beautifully sparse landscape the little buildings have the presence of a kind of perfectly functional architecture, almost like the simple churches that the pioneers in this area tended to build. It seemed that the central image, which is the front door of St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney, would be appropriate in this study of (a)symmetry...St Magnus, of course, completely dominating its small town for almost a thousand years.


scraping ribs...

The seats need to be recaned, but the big (first) job was going to be scraping all that old varnish off the inside of the canoe to get back to bare wood...I only have a day or two per week in the studio during the academic year, so scraping varnish is not a high priority, but it had to be done. I found a so-called 'organic' varnish remover which didn't smell too bad, and got to work. The remover takes an hour or so to act, then it's just scrape, scrape, scrape. Usually two applications were required, as the original 'varnish' was probably actually shellac, over which there had been added several layers of new varnish over the years. I could scrape for about three hours, then needed to do some studio work. I had a new piece in mind, so the scraping process was a good way to mull over the idea while actually getting some other work accomplished, which is how I like to work.


What every printmaker needs...

A canoe of course! Just the thing for moving a one ton press down raging rivers...Yes there might be a conflict of interests here, but in fact both the press and the canoe are superb examples of form following function, just different forms and different functions. I am in the process of refurbishing the canoe, which clues would suggest is a pre-1921 Chestnut (in 1921 the Chestnut factory in New Brunswick burned down, and post-1921 canoes are slightly different, so I'm told). The press is a 19th Century Ledeuil a Paris, a beauty to print with. Needless to say, the studio needs some reorganizing, but the press sure ain't going anywhere!


prairie long poems

sticks/stones The fourth piece in this series...the left panel is an image of the standing stones at Stenness, not far from Stromness in the Orkneys, while the right panel is an image of 'dolphins' in the Fraser River North Arm near the river's mouth. The dolphins are the pilings that log booms are moored to as they are brought into the river, prior to being hauled upstream to lumber mills. They also help as navigational guides for boats heading up or down the river, as the landscape here is very flat and in a fog the river banks can be hard to see. The central image was taken from the window of the hotel I was staying in at Stromness, looking out over the harbour. Stromness was the last port that many ships called into before heading for North America, including all the Hudson's Bay Company ships. They collected water and food here, and often picked up a few crew members as well, as Orcadians were known as hardy sailors, well-suited to the North Atlantic. Those who stayed in Rupert's Land (the HBC holdings in North America) were likewise well-suited to the harsh life of the barrenlands and boreal forest of the fur-trade environment. In the hotel itself, the public bar is called the Hudson Room, and has a large map of Canada on the wall showing all the Hudson's Bay posts. The large standing stone circle at Stenness is about an hour's fast walk from Stromness, and dates to the neolithic age about 5,000 years ago.

prairie long poems

information/visitors The third piece in this series (click on the image for a better one!)... The two outside panels are images of benches and tables outside a laundry near my studio; one of the signs says 'Information' and the other says 'Visitors Must Report to the Office'. I sat at both tables and did not receive or dispense any information, nor did I report at the office...the central panel is an image of a bench on a cliff on South Ronaldsey, one of the Orkney Islands. The bench overlooks the North Sea, and at the time there was a freighter moving southwards a long way off. We did not exchange any information, nor did I or the freighter report at any office that time either, although it seemed that we were both visiting.


prairie long poems

back to the river ...second in the Prairie Long Poems. The river in this piece is the River Boyne in Ireland, not far from the site of the famous battle, and also not far from Newgrange, one of the most spectacular of the many Neolithic burial mounds scattered throughout this part of Europe. The central panel is based on a photo of Tracy Jager looking out my studio window (and smoking) on her first visit, as The Archaeology of Water project was getting under way.


prairie long poems

Pict Bridge This is the first piece in a series I've been working on (that should be on and off!) for about 2 years. Each of the pieces consists of three panels that are developed independently, then glued together. The two outside panels are 3/4" birch plywood, while the central panel is thin steel which has been bonded to plywood. The over all dimensions are 12" x 48".
In this particular piece, the right panel is a view of the River Liffey in Dublin, while the left panel is crop shelters on fields in Perthshire, Scotland. The photos were taken on the same day, the Dublin one in the morning, and the Scottish one later in the afternoon on the way to Aberdeen. The central panel is a layered image composed of scanned images of a very small porcelain figure found on a beach in Scotland, combined with lace from a curtain of a friend's house.It wasn't until I was looking at the photos from Ireland and Scotland that I noticed the similar arched forms of the bridge and crop shelters...in any case, I'd been looking for a way to bring some images together. All the work is screenprinted, but with significant additions of drawing on the plywood panels, and etching in acid with the steel central panel. The outside panels have probably 30 layers of ink, varnish and drawing, while the central panel is about six layers of ink with etching between layers. (Please click on the image...)