12 Point Buck
(an ongoing collaborative project with Lethbridge AB artist, Leila Armstrong)
To examine nature, is to examine culture. The implication is that any contact with nature is mediated by the rhetorical constructs of art, industry, religion, and education (Wilson, 1991: 12). There is no stepping out into the wilds without post card images, poetry, lawns and gardens crowding in and shaping our interaction.
But perhaps what influences this relationship most profoundly is our longing to do just that, to experience something artless, profound, fundamental, and free. It is our goal to explore this sense of yearning as well the complex terrain that inspires it. Our desire is a sort of nostalgia for the subject, and the narratives we construct are an attempt to create a fulfilling relationship with our muse.
Nostalgia is a bit of a dirty word and we don’t use it lightly. It has been described as a “social disease” (Stewart, 1993: ix) and it is frequently painted as an escape hatch from the realities (and the responsibilities) of daily life. This is far too simplistic a dismissal of a curious and historically shifting phenomenon. Here we use nostalgia to describe an emotion that is not so much about the past as it is the tool we use to remember the “unrealized dreams of the past and the visions of the future that became obsolete” (Boym, 2001: xvi).
We examine our dreams through the rhetorical constructs of our representations. These visits are not broad strokes of overarching themes but close investigations of the minutiae of our aspirations. They are narratives constructed in-between our personal desires and the desires of the social whole. They touch us at the deepest personal level while allowing us a sense of belonging to a larger collective that craves a similar experience.
The combination of paintings or photography with ornamentation, toys, faux wilderness elements and other romanticized representations, is an opportunity to layer these nostalgic artifacts and over-saturate the viewer with this sense of longing. To this we add our own visions of hybrid or affected creatures within or without the backdrop of the landscape, the scenic vista, or the panorama.
Raymond Williams describes nature as “the most complex word in the language” because the concept of nature is so vitally enmeshed in the development of human thought (1976: 219 & 221). To speak uncritically of nature is to ignore a myriad of social questions (Wilson, 1991: 12) and turn our backs on our oldest, dearest friend. Instead, let us use our unrealized dreams and hope filled visions to better understand our daily realties and our larger social responsibilities.Boym, S., (2001), The Future of Nostalgia, New York: Basic Books.
Stewart, S., (1993), On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Williams, R., (1976), Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society, London: Fontana Press.
Wilson, A., (1991), The Culture of Nature: North American Landscape from Disney to the Exxon Valdez, Toronto: Between The Lines.