Slow Art & Alchemy

I was talking to a friend earlier this summer about how much I love the Slow Food movement, how important it is, a huge shift in consciousness to slow down and eat good, clean, small farm if possible, food. (The movement started in Italy in 1986 by Carlo Petrini as a response to plans to put a McDonald’s at the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome.)

From my own garden, September harvest, color to dye for.

As we talked, I mentioned I’d love to see a Slow Art movement and–synapses snapping…I’m still taken by the idea, if only because I find my processes are more time-involved as I go along.

Not time intensive  meticulous detailed work like this that a colleague sent along yesterday–beautiful, awesome work.  More like real time–time as a resource.  Time as a tool in your toolbox.  Time that you interact with, you and the very nature of plants, metals, heat and cold, water and air–you are the alchemist, the witness, the lucky one.

rust, eucalyptus leaves, berberis berries and leaves, ink threads

I’ve written about India Flint before, she of the bloom, the wizard of plant alchemy, more here…. I’ve been conducting my own experiments for a while now, after a year of collecting plant pigments, one plant a day, 365 samples (which will be on display in December at Shift) and pushing things in a direction of my own, discovering new things, being blown away by the results again and again.  But after it all, I keep recalling Flint’s own counsel: time is the key.  Letting the materials work their own magic.

These are fabric and rice paper bundles, with plant materials and metals wrapped within...they'll sit for at least a month prior to opening.

What I’ve been playing with: a strappy leaf pressed into a sheet of rice paper, bundled up and steamed for an hour, set out in the elements for a month–maybe a few bits of copper or iron thrown in for a basso profundo depth.  Ink threads that seep into miniscule canyons on the fabric and paper.

But again and again, the piece that fascinates me is time.  Like the pigment project, a plant a day smudged and smashed onto a 3×3 scrap of fabric for 365 days, at the end I see Time.  I see the passage I traversed from there to here.  I see the seasons and elements at play.

The "plant-pigment-a-day" project--all 12 flags laid out. Each day is represented by a 3x3 square with the plant type and date scribbled on the back

In a world obsessed with going faster and faster, I sank into a  deeper appreciation for the nature around me, the unseen deep blue box berry bursting with color in the middle of winter,  the certainty of a pansy any time of the year, the indelible yellow of the dandelion in spring.  Suddenly my runs and walks were changed, I was looking and wondering, taking samples, trying things out.

In this interaction with time and nature, I found a Slow Art at last.

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About Cass Nevada

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