Eve Ingalls

 

About the Sculpture

During a residency in Berlin I turned to Sculpture. It allowed for a more direct investigation of our interaction with the natural world than painting could offer. Urbanization is stripping us of our awareness of natural habitat. While working in the studio, I imagined that the natural world was gone-erased-except for the bit of landscape left at the edge of my body (perched on my shoulder, caught between my arms, or stuck in the triangle that holds my feet to the ground). Using my body as a drawing tool, I recorded in gypsum the gestures which allow me to reach out and bring back a world in which it is possible to exist. These are primarily gestures seeking shelter and orientation.

Currently I use both paper and metal for their ability to record the intricate effects of wear and tear on the cultural and natural fabric of our contemporary world. Among these effects are the boundary shifts that are being caused by global warming. Entire sections where form once existed feel erased, burnt, or gnawed away. The remains evoke parts of the human body and elements of the nature/culture battle that seek to survive destructive forces. References to the human body and to human scale unite to produce the unsettling effect of implicating a part of the viewer's body in the survival effort that is being enacted in each sculpture. It is as if a part of one's body is being used without one's consent.

Throughout the papermaking process I set up conditions that mirror natural forces. Pulp and water are allowed to participate actively in the shaping of the paper. For example, I often let the drying paper twist the internal metal rods on which the paper is supported, much as the drying out of the cells of a dead tree causes its trunk to spiral in one direction. The active collaboration of the process brings a sense of added life to the work, by making forms feel as if they are pinched and pulled and moving before one's eyes. The result is the impression that an event is in process of unfolding, forcing each sculpture to change location, structure, and shape. I intend my sculpture to feel 'site uncomfortable', as if it has come from another place and is merely passing through the gallery on its way elsewhere. Wishful Filaments (a play on Freud's dreams of 'wish fulfillment') suggests an accordion book that is pried loose from the earth, stretched open, and held up to the sky by marionette wires. It forms a stairway that allows the thought of flight along a vertical axis.

My recent body of work represents the most extreme investigation to date of the state of our environment. My sculptural forms reveal a world in which climate change is assaulting natural and cultural boundaries. Things are seriously out of place. Objects, as well as life forms and processes, are left suspended in locations/situations where they are unable to perform their usual functions. Discovering and inventing a new purpose for things has become a crucial task at every scale. Two major sculptural works highlight such significant shifts in function and purpose. In Messing with the Axis Mundi (usually defined as the vertical, spiritual axis of human existence), the axis becomes a scissor lift, a lifting mechanism normally found at construction sites. Here it is used to raise an eight-foot square of the ocean's surface high into the air where humans can perform experiments that blur the line between sea and sky. In Drawing Back to the Pyramid, a house, fresh off the drawing board and made astonishingly of paper two-by-fours, sinks into what might be permafrost, its original cubic form morphing into a pyramid, implying that we are in the presence of a tomb.

About the Drawing

The series of drawings, Riding the Tectonic Plates: Drawing Acts, was created in two phases. Both phases investigate methods used to understand the world. The first phase began in 1980. Archaeology was used as a case study. The emphasis was on methods used to approach and understand previous cultures. The surfaces are of raw, stretched canvas that acts as the surface of an archaeological dig; drawing marks are my tools. The grid of the weave of the canvas and the rectangular drawing surface become a basis for locating and measuring. Marks burrow into the grid of the canvas weave, pulling forth shards trapped in the ongoing action of physical and geological forces. The shard implies the presence of ancient horizons buried deep underground. How do these ancient horizons relate to our own? How can we understand them? How might that understanding transform our lives? The dig is a metaphor for the difficulty of understanding what we probe.

The second phase began in 2008, when I rediscovered these drawings. They were clearly unfinished. I returned to them filled with the awareness that meaning continues to expand as we ride the tectonic plates. The past is shifting beneath us, and science is uncovering new tools to extend our knowledge. When I reopened the dig, I allowed new layers to appear. The recent layers reveal fewer cultural shards and more devices (charts, graphs, maps and drawings of scientific models) used by humans to understand our world. Some scientists write that these devices entail the use of 'conceptual' or 'conventional' metaphors (metaphors that we use so often that we don't think of them as metaphors) to investigate natural forces that our perceptual apparatus is unable to access directly. In this second phase I wished to create unusual landscape terrains, as seen through these devices. We experience the energy of natural forces caused not by rivers, mountains, and trees, but by streams of arrows, rocky shards, and graphs shaped like mountains. The surfaces of these drawings uncover events built of the very tools that we use to understand the events.

About the Painting

My paintings concern human interaction with the natural world. For many years I have spent each summer in a log cabin in the middle of the remote Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho. Every phase of my work has been influenced by a consideration of ways in which Americans view nature, from its extreme manifestation in the wilderness to its gentle appearance in flowers cultivated on an urban windowsill.

In the series, entitled Wild Signs, triangular stretchers are placed together in different configurations to create a sign system (representing triangular shapes in nature such as mountains and valleys). This system allows me to take nature apart so as to study its forces. The triangles seem to turn on their points, to soar against gravity, to fall, to fold over one another, to behave like tectonic plates. These are paintings of forces that are so strong that they strain and warp the clear geometry of the sign system. These triangles also represent the arbitrary ways in which we designate and carve up wilderness with little respect for the dynamics of ecosystems.

The series of 16-18 foot panoramic paintings, called Take Only Pictures, was influenced by Le Corbusier's description of the long horizontal window that simultaneously gives us nature and takes it away. Unlike the French window, whose narrow verticality limits our view of nature while allowing us to stand in the midst of what we are viewing, the long horizontal window opens broadly to the landscape, but affords no place for the viewer's feet. I chose the long horizontal because it allows us to experience the paradox of wilderness in America. We can designate wilderness areas and experience their power, but we cannot be a part of wilderness, because of the overbearing effect of our presence on nature. Part of us must remain always standing on the outside.

Between Two and Three Dimensions

My most recent work, shown in an exhibition called The Drawing May No Longer Be Accurate, launches a new category, which operates in the realm between two and three dimensions. It allows me a more profound path towards investigating ways in which climate change is assaulting natural and cultural boundaries as we know them. This series was prompted by warnings printed on maps of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, stating that the boundaries as depicted might be incorrect: we cannot be sure of information as it is presented to us.

A strange and powerfully focused ambiguity permeates the work. Are these paintings or sculpture? Forms flicker back and forth between two and three dimensions, demanding both renaming and repurposing as they shift. A large, flat rectangular piece of fly screen, with an open gridded weave and no frame, hangs 10 inches out from the wall. This forms the basis of most of the artworks. As one approaches, one sees that paper pulp has been embedded in the gridded structure of the screen, forming marks that resemble pixels. The drawing act performed by these pixels stresses the shifting quality of edges and suggests that the Earth's air is filled with polluting particles. There is also a constant shift in the means used to represent objects. The lighting is such that moving shadows spill out of the screen and are caught and focused on the wall, making it difficult to differentiate the location of shadow forms from their source. Also elements, such as metal arrows and multiple layers of cut details, appear in each structure, activating the three-dimensional life of this work. We are reminded that recent technology puts two-dimensional screens in our hands that locate us elsewhere even as we continue to stand in the midst of a three-dimensional natural world. We are thus bombarded by numerous versions of this life on Earth.

A wide arc of references holds these artworks open and alive to a multiplicity of interpretations that grow in and out of one another with a fierce energy.

© 2017 Eve Ingalls All rights reserved