The Nature of Change, Part 6: The pigments

These are narratives accompanying the 10 map series, Nature of Change, now hanging at the Carco Theatre in Renton.  If you are in the area, there will be an artist reception, Saturday, April 23, 5-7pm–come on down!

The Pigments

I first started working with plant pigments in 2009, a gray December afternoon when I stood at the kitchen sink with an over-ripe pomegranate in my hand. The red of the berries was more than I could stand to throw out in the middle of our dreary winter.  So, I decided to mash the fruit up in an old sheet, douse it with some vinegar,  roll it up and let it sit.

A few weeks later I remembered the experiment and opened the sheet up for a look.  The pomegranate seeds had stained the fabric a deep, scarlet red with spreading tinges of purple clouds.  The colors were bright and stunning.

The stains from those pomegranate seeds made me rethink everything.  Soon I was in the yard, grabbing dandelion leaves and hanks of grass, I boiled eucalyptus leaves and pine cones. I doused my grandmother’s old cotton sheets with the brew, wrapped the whole thing up with rubber bands and let it percolate.

The results continued to amaze me, and it wasn’t long before I skipped the whole wrapping-and-setting process and began to rub flowers and vegetation directly onto the cloth, sometimes spraying the stains with vinegar or alum and salted water.

At some point I remembered: when I was a little kid, I took a fistful of red rose petals that had fallen to the ground.  I took those petals and used them like chalk or paint, drawing directly on the hot summer sidewalk in front of our south california home.  I was amazed that I could draw pictures with flowers–I don’t recall the impact my discovery had on the rose bushes in my neighborhood, but I’m sure it took a toll.

This direct application of plant pigmentation seemed perfect for these maps: salal, cedar, iris, wood hyacinth and tulips, dandelion and grass, crocus and pine needles–they all helped to build semi-transparent layers with which to tell a story within a story of change.

As I continued to explore the use of plant pigments, I rediscovered the garden flowers and vegetables, the birds, the seasons, the slow and steady presence of the earth itself.

There’s no place like home.

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About Cass Nevada

bird lover, runner, artist, urban farmer, teacher, writer, planner, meditator and recycler.
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