There's a very interesting interview here with Patterson Webster, an artist whose exhibition in the Eastern Townships explores the relationship between the natural world and the place that development plays in it. The interview is done by Linda Leith, who really excels at getting right to the heart of the tension in Webster's work. As Patterson explains:
"Land does mark the people who live on it, as much as people mark the land. The Eastern Townships had more open space a century ago when most of the land was farmed. Now, threes have grown up on old fields, and it isn't hard to find barbed wire that has become part of a tree ... For me it is impossible to ignore these traces of the past. The walls and sap buckets and paths trampled in the woods are like ghosts - constant, haunting reminders of people who lived here before me."
I was thinking about some of this over last weekend as I was camping in the Laurentians up north. Most of that area, too, was covered by farms 100 years ago and the dense forests and bucolic countryside just barely hides the traces of the touches of humans. The trees are smaller than one might expect and even deep in the woods one comes across huge old stumps or stone walls that are crumbling, gentle reminders that the seeming permanence of our development - our cities, our homes, our driveways - is an illusion when one considers the power that nature really holds.
What interests me about Webster's work is her melding of the business side of development with deeper questions of our place in the natural world, given the fact that so much of it seems to be vanishing around us (at least in our age, who knows in 100 years what will become of all this development). Unfortunately, today is the last day of the exhibition though Webster's website give some more details about the display...
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