Overgrown and hidden deep in the New England woods-housing chipmunks and foxes- are root-tangled foundations, stacked-stone walls, and single-boulder quarries. The New England woods are full of ruins- relics of a people long gone by; a haunting and lovely sight. The trees growing up and through them are visual metaphors for transformation.
The idea for an art/ecology/archaeology/history project began to germinate back in 2008; that’s when Ant Man Mike had his own Bullard Fellowship and spent 6 months in Harvard Forest running experiments. With sketchbooks and sketching supplies in hand I tagged along. You can see some of that artwork here. It was a glorious time of drawing birds, plants, charismatic waterfalls… and the mysterious ruins in the forest that caught my eye and fired my imagination. I had to come back and snoop around, dig up stories and make a lot of drawings. The Bullard Fellowship, which is awarded by Harvard University, as a rule is given to scientists and academics. Undaunted, I applied.
Last year about this time I got word that the proposal had been accepted- I am honored to be the first artist to receive the Charles Bullard Fellowship. The next eight month will be spent drawing and studying the forests of New England and the archaeological sites of the early settlers who broke ground and made their living from it. How did they change the landscape, and why did they ultimately abandon it? How did the cleared, tidy and tamed land that once characterized New England, in the span of just over a century, grow back its forest to a nearly pre-settlement levels? How quickly the wildlife returned to roam through old fields and pastures, now grown up in hemlock and hardwoods. After man, nature prevails; it has the power to regenerate, given enough time and sufficient neglect. That’s a message of purest hope.
I’m going back to Harvard Forest, in Petersham, Massachusetts to tell ghost stories-tell them through the lens of an artist, by way of drawings and paintings. Using Harvard and Harvard Forest’s archives- and they do have a great collection of farm ledgers, diaries and old photos- I’ll dig up names and life stories (I guess I’m thinking of Doyle here-he certainly caught my eye), adding a sharper focus to the portrait I’ll be drawing- a portrait of the New England forest as it reclaims the artifacts of the past.