Museum of NW Art, Laconner, WA
recycled sheets, rust, and ash
In the last thirty years, Mountain pine beetles have killed more than 67million acres of forest in Western North America. The Mountain pine beetle, dendroctonus ponderosae, is a species of bark beetle with a hard black exoskeleton about 5mm long, the size of a grain of rice, which is native to the forests of western North America. The Mountain pine beetles are reproducing at higher rates and experiencing low winter die off due to the increasing global temperatures. Pine beetle outbreaks are a natural occurrence. In a balanced ecology, the beetles only feed on weaker trees creating a natural thinning process that fosters the development of younger trees.
With a million acres of older, low vitality Lodgepole pine growth, weakened by continuing droughts also caused by the rise in global temperatures; an ideal environment has been created to support an overpopulation of the Mountain pine beetle and the subsequent enormous forest die-off. Bark Beetle die-off does not cause forest fires, but it does create fuel through the loss of needles and branches that fosters the speed and intensity of a spreading fire. Ironically we will face a reduction in forest fires in the upcoming future due to the sad reason that there are significantly fewer forests left to burn.
Loss and destruction of environments are complex, multi-faceted situations. As one thing recedes others benefit and grow. The death of the trees allows more sunlight to reach the undergrowth encouraging other species to flourish. The heat of a forest fire stimulates the opening of the Lodgepole pine cone to release its seeds creating the potential for new growth.
As the pine beetle infests, reproduces, and destroys the tree it leaves behind a beautiful calling card in the form of an intricate pattern engraved into the bark referred to as a beetle gallery. This beautiful design born of destruction became a significant inspiration for this work of art.
My work is driven by my choice of materials and the rerouting of these recycled textiles into art and not landfills had a small but direct effect on the global warming that created the environment for the overpopulation of pine beetles and the subsequent destruction of forests. The textile industry has become the 2nd largest environmental burden in our world with more than 15 million tons of textile waste generated in the United States each year. Both the manufacturing and disposal of these textiles contribute to the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Unlike so many other products textiles are 95% recyclable.
I chose recycled bedsheets as my primary medium because of their commonplace daily interaction with our lives. Sheets share a deep intimacy with our human experience; they cover the beds where we are created, born, fall sick, and die. I wanted to create a visceral connection between the human experience and the forest environment. To achieve that I gathered plant, flowers, bark, soil, and fungus from Pacific Northwest forests and through heat and pressure literally imbued the fabric with the physical traces of our forests.