The Moving Line : Calligraphic Expression opening next month.
(See details below.)
I wanted to make something new that explored a visual idea
and my curiosity about the naming of things.
First I created a large calligraphic map of the Hudson River Estuary -
no roads, no towns, no human made borders - just the shapes and names of the waterways
and mountain ranges that feed into and surround this big river.
Around the border I wrote the names that had been given to the Hudson River by
the Iroquois, the Lenape and the Mohegan tribes - and the French, Dutch and English explorers -
and by Henry Hudson himself.
It was surprisingly difficult to find maps that provided this information clearly.
(The person I spoke to at the Dept. of Environmental Conservation said that they had thrown out
most of their printed topographic maps and shifted to online downloads. )
Thanks to Erik Kiviat at Hudsonia for the loan of an old relief map of New York State
and a map by Gary Allen "The Hudson Estuary as Bioregion" from 1986.
I painted in watercolor, gradually building up the elements of the design over hours,
contemplating and enjoying the forms of this watershed network as I worked.
The slowness of the process was settling. I let the need for perfection relax
and the alive imperfect line unfurl.
This past summer I read a book by Robert MacFarlane, a British nature writer, which included
a large glossary of words, a dictionary of "place-terms" collected from across the British Isles,
words that described the land forms, the waterways, the woods, the farms, the weather,
drawing from the Welsh, Gaelic, East Anglia, Scottish dialects and more.
This glossary inspired me to begin looking for the old words interwoven with the Hudson Valley
rooted and handed down from the Dutch, English and Indian cultures.
Was there a language of this landscape that I could gather and re-enliven through handwriting ?
I searched in the Local History Collections of the town libraries and spoke to elders
in the community. Words began to collect in my notebooks. For this upcoming show
I gathered all the terms I had found for water forms and wrote them out in a flowing watery way
with a big blue brushstroke coursing behind it all.
The letters moved across the page, counterbalancing, maneuvering, lifting up and dropping down
like ripples in a stream. I wrote quickly, intuitively, sensing the whole while focused on the parts.
I hope to continue the search for words that describe this landscape - old words, new words -
celebrating the rich fluency of language that connects humans with place.
By bringing handwritten letters into this mix the nature-based expressive imagery
of the alphabet can be restored !
For anyone in the Hudson Valley here is the information about these upcoming events
all happening at Unison Arts Center in New Paltz, NY .
For more information contact - unisonarts.org
BRUSHING WITH THE MUSE
with Steve Gorn, David Lopato, Harvey Sorgen & Barbara Bash
Saturday November 7, 8 pm
THE MOVING LINE : Calligraphic Expression / Barbara Bash
Opening Sunday November 8, 4 - 6 pm
Exhibit will run through December 6
BRUSH SPIRIT / Barbara Bash
Saturday, November 21, 1 - 4 pm