The Web of Life
This summer I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of John Muir, along with other great thinkers in the area of naturalism, and the relationship between spirituality and nature. Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra particularly spoke to me, with his frequent perception of God speaking through the landscape, plants, and creatures around him. This piece of art was inspired by a well-known passage from that book, where he says “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
Try it! Pick out one thing; an article of clothing, a dish on your dinner table, and mentally trace as much as you can of the web of life that brought that particular thing to you. This is one of my favorite exercises in gratitude; we might think of ourselves as quite self-sufficient, but if we give it a little thought, we will realize what an amazing network of connections surrounds us to nourish and protect us, and each and every thread of that web eventually traces all the way back to God.
This piece is made almost entirely with recycled or reclaimed materials. The texture of the background was made with Risograph duplicator master material, which is basically a layer of very very thin plastic bonded to a layer of very very thin tissue paper. This was carefully heated on the plastic side until it began to melt and distort, creating the interesting cellular texture you see in this piece. The surface was then glued to a backing and sealed with a matte acrylic sealer, so it could be painted with several layers of hand-mixed leftover house-paint. The backing material is asphalt-impregnated roofing paper, which is thick and durable, but also flexible. It is mounted to a framework of made of reclaimed plywood, to stabilize it so the pattern could be stitched onto it without buckling the background. The stitching was done with leftover cotton weaving yarn, dyed with leftover t-shirt dye to a variegated green.