The Metronome of Place
Shirt Flower, South Yuba River, Leah Wilson
Landscape painting or photography mostly show how a landscape appears in a single instance of time. But that doesn’t give a good impression of the place. Images like this freeze the landscape and hold it captive. Place is intertwined with time.
Shirt Flower Two and a Half Years Later, South Yuba River, Leah Wilson
Landscapes are ecosystems in fluid motion. They are never static, like in landscape photography or landscape painting. The only way to be true to the story of the land is to pay attention to the way that it sways through time. Time is the metronome that keeps the beat for the rhythm of place. Without time, there is no rhythm, no music of the land. We feel this rhythm within us when we feel we know a place. It is a part of us.
Becoming One: Finley (Winter – Spring), oil on 30 in. x 30 in. panels, Leah Wilson
However, it’s not as simple as that. There isn’t only one set of time that keeps the beat. Geological time does not set the same rhythm as human time. There are probably infinite sets of time that affect a landscape, depending on how you want to start to break things down. There are infinite beats and rhythms superimposed on one another creating a music that is so intricate that we are not able to catch most of it, not even with sophisticated scientific equipment.
Instruments,, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, Leah Wilson
I acknowledge time in my process, and even embrace it as a co-creator. I am amused that time is an essential component of my work, but I remain ambivalent, even disinterested, in time based media, the seemingly logical way to incorporate time. Time in a static image, at first, seems like a readymade oxymoron. But it is not. Science does this frequently with graphs. A graph is often an abstracted image of change over time.
Poise Between Something and Nothing, oil on wood panel, 40 x 50 in., 2011, Leah Wilson
Many of my projects set up a system that accounts for time. The systems are designed with a nod toward scientific graphs. There are reference points in which to compare shifts of color or shape. Change in comparison to the reference point develops the rhythm of the artwork’s composition.
Listening to the Forest (Detail – Douglas -fir mid bole leaf wetness), acrylic and bio-based resin on birch, 2020, Leah Wilson
Is change the way that we can know time? Is it even time, or is it just change? If nothing at all changes, has time stopped? Time is the static that is mostly ignored. It moves forward with the regular beats of seconds, minutes, hours, days, and years whether we are aware of it or not. It is the space when things happen instead of where things are. Time holds the meaning. Change is the object that holds the information. Without time, how are we able to decipher the information held within change?
Is time part of the negative space in my art? Or is it the aberration, the object that holds the information?
Gauge, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, Leah Wilson
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