In the human imagination, the forest has functioned as the stage of myth and folktale, and as a place where we can both seek shelter and fear for our lives. Even though the forest has been such an integral part of human history, it has become othered and romanticized as humans have moved away from nature and into communities of industry. In this distancing, the forest has also become a place of mystery, an environment from which we draw symbol and meaning, but fail to completely understand. We go to the forest to feel safely lost, to run away knowing that we will be found again. In this collection of paintings, inspired by my daily walks through the local trails of Columbia, I reconcile our loss of connection to the forest and use the forest to connect to a feeling of being lost. Using the forest as a psychological platform for journey, the figures in these paintings escape their daily worlds by wandering down pathways and tripping over tree-roots, chasing after something they cannot name. My female-centric paintings are populated with wandering women and oblivious men amidst a landscape that becomes a character of its own. In these landscapes, the Pre-Raphaelite notion of femme-fatales is flipped into homme-fatales featuring a manipulative man who drones on and on in a condescending manner (The Dinner Party), a stubborn one who refuses to take action (Slippage), and the emotionally unavailable and aloof one whose life work has finally begun to take over so much so that he cannot give attention to anything else (An Unfamiliar Forest). The female characters, on the other hand, are the ones who are forging ahead, nudged by curiosity and disillusionment. They are venturing out to a party and later choosing to leave; one is gingerly making her way across a creek, testing out the slick rocks with her toes; another balances on a tree limb, positioning herself to peer down into the space that she might jump across. In seeking to understand the allure of the densely wooded landscape and the desire to paint it, I have been lead down a winding path of folklore, myth, botany, and symbolism that has caused me to look deeper than just the forest itself. It has implored me to explore the question of why such a space -- a space of isolation, wilderness, and quite possibly, danger is so attractive and what that attraction means. However, such a space as the forest trails that I walked all summer for hours on end is not completely isolated, wild, or dangerous. It is tamed by trail markers and beaten down dirt paths that stray away from the main trails which leave the evidence of humans so that it is quite impossible to stay lost. Psychologically, it is an "in-between" space -- a place where one can simultaneously choose a path that leads to an unknown destination, and one from which the way home can be found again. The forest that connects my paintings is not a wild and unadulterated one, but one which human intention has been imprinted upon. It winds through backyards and fantastical spaces, and seamlessly shifts the narrative from being grounded in reality to being consumed and trapped by one's own perception and imagination.
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