Drawings from Unchopping a Tree by W.S. Merwin
When Barbara Ras, Director of Trinity University Press, first approached me about using my artwork to accompany the prose poem Unchopping a Tree by W.S. Merwin, I was both honored and astonished. She of course had no idea that a Merwin poem, clipped from an old New Yorker, had hung on my studio wall like a talisman for years. The project was meant to be.
Barbara and I selected examples of my work to present to Bill Merwin, and happily he approved of the pairing. It was decided that we would focus on my drawings in silverpoint, an old-master technique that I have been using for two decades. My 1995 series of four drawings called Cellular Seasons would set the tone; my task was to create six new works to complement the older ones and to converse, so to speak, with Merwin’s enchanting text.
In May 2013, with support from a Brown Foundation Fellowship at the Dora Maar House Artist Residency in Ménerbes, France, I enjoyed a month of focused productivity, enabling me to complete the remaining works. Provence had been an important and inspiring place for Merwin, and it inspired me as well to incorporate aspects of the place into the work I was making, such as ochre pigment mined for centuries in nearby Roussillon, and linen rag paper from an ancient mill in Fontaine de Vaucluse.
All of the silverpoint drawings made in Ménerbes for the book project are included in this exhibition, as well as one of the Cellular Seasons pieces I was fortunate to be able to borrow from a generous collector. Also on view are four watercolors I made in Ménerbes using themes developed in the drawings. Finally, I decided to include an oil painting from 1995 called From Then to Now, which marks my earliest explorations of tree-rings as a source for imagery and speaks to the passages of seasons and years they inscribe.
Liz Ward, March 19, 2014