Tarpentry is a project that grew out of the Colorless Landscape project. Below is an artist’s statement from a recent exhibition at Studio Place Arts Gallery.
Tarpentry : A visual narrative of landscape and culture
It all began while working on my master’s degree. I was using Polaroids to photograph landscapes; the concept being that Polaroids were generally used for fun portraits and were not capable of making the pristine landscape images that we have come to expect. I felt like I was breaking the ‘rules’ and the results were fantastic.
It was fall, and while I was making great progress with this body of work, color suddenly left the landscape. The foliage was gone and we entered that other season that arrives before the snow covers the ground. Stick Season. Now, I truly love the feelings of melancholy and the inner reflection that arises during this time of year, but I also came to realize that the traditional Vermont landscape that we expect and also project to the world, (think Vermont Life Magazine), does not exist for six months of the year.
This duplicity made me look really hard at the dormant landscape, studying not just the topography but also the culture that was exposed after the leaves drop. And during this process I found tarps. Tarps were everywhere.
Generally, tarps are used for protection; to keep things safe from the elements. Culturally, they are more often used as a stop gap, when resources are not available to provide an adequate solution. People are creative. They have to be. ‘Tarpentry’ is what people do when they can’t hire a carpenter.
A pile of sticks covered with a blue tarp was one of the first discoveries. The pile was old and its purpose seemed forgotten or abandoned. Making a pile of sticks was one thing, but why cover it? It wasn’t firewood. Why was it so important that it needed to be protected?
Most of the situations that interested me had to have some type of question to it; something more than being visually appealing. Tarps appeared to be either a shroud, covering an object and taking on an ominous new form, or protection, usually of a more of a blanket or barrier, a wall of blue.
The more I worked on the project, it became important to look deeper into the cultural meaning behind the tarps. Tarps are protecting things of value, objects that are considered precious, if only to their owners. People are protecting their homes and their belongings. A thought kept resurfacing. It’s like people are putting a blanket or a coat around something to keep it safe. An instinct that we all share.