from Galen Garwood
Of Water Sacred
The rains have returned. The river rises. I’ve made it through another hot season with the usual army of insects, lizards, and frogs with which I share my studio. Even the dying leaves of nearby trees find refuge in my open-aired work space. Enough.
I’ve been building what I hope will turn out to be a more practical studio, a new addition well off of the ground, modestly small but large enough to manage a decent sized canvas. Don’t get me wrong. I’m fond of the bugs and reptiles, but they proliferate with astonishing speed and do so with complete disregard for my attempt to make art. So be it. They have their rights, too. But this space for new art will be mine, not theirs, and when it’s finished, it’ll be almost hermetically sealed, every cranny and crack filled with caulk. Maybe…even air conditioning. Ants and geckos by invitation only.
Looking out of the soon-to-be new painting studio in Northern Thailand
RIVERSONG galenograph 2017
RIVERSONG is one of a new series of black and white images, evolved states from previous water images-‘Maenam,’ ‘Dream Sea,’ and ‘Dismantlement.’ Originally I had planned to call it ‘The Water Trilogy,’ but now there are more than three expressions in the series. The new art project title is ‘Of Sacred Water,’ after an essay-in-progress.
If you ask why on earth I decided to call them galenographs, I suppose my answer would be because I couldn’t really decide what to call them. While they’ll end up in a printed state, they’re not photographs, exactly; they’re not lithographs, nor serigraphs. So I’ve chosen my own nomenclature. I’ve had some experience in that arena already, in the winter of 1981. Along with four other artists, Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet invited me to create a visual element to a specific performance, as part of PNW Ballet’s Summer Inventions. I chose to work with Val Caniparoli, a choreographer from the San Francisco Ballet. Val was creating a dance to Carl Orff’s ‘Street Songs.’ I spent several weeks attending rehearsals, watching the dancers, listening to the music, trying to come up with visual ideas that might resonate with what I was experiencing. Once an idea took shape, I set about building four boxes, each box two feet wide, eight feet long, and twelve inches deep. Inside each box I attached hundreds of small foam rubber legs on top of which I glued circular discs of highly reflected, silver Mylar, slightly faceted. The four boxes stood on larger foam rubber legs, connected to each other by a trip-line. I placed the boxes upstage on the floor beneath a plain white scrim. A series of white and colored overhead theater lights from varying angles were aimed at the boxes. The master trip-line led offstage and one slight pull of the cord by an attentive stagehand let loose an Aurora Borealis of shimmering light that danced across the panoramic scrim and out into the theater. Before the music began, before the dancers appeared, this scattering of light is all the audience saw when the curtains rose. One could hear the startled gasp of air rushing into five hundred pairs of lungs, including mine. I was pleased, of course, because I’d felt I’d achieved what is necessary in collaboration: a seamless integration.
I wasn’t sure what to call them. Sculpture? No. Installation art? Not really. After an afternoon of mulling on it, I decided to call them ‘Light Scatter Boxes,’ which, of course, is what they did. However, when I went to collect the boxes several days after the performance, I discovered the stage hands had renamed them. They called them ‘galenoids.’ The boxes sat around my studio for a few months before being disassembled and made into something else.
So…galenographs? Why not?
In my next posting, I’ll have more about
Of Water Sacred
and how I plan to bring the project into the world.
My friend, NICK REID, photographer, builder of houses, planes and boats, will be exhibiting his photographs at Tretter Gallery / Northwest Maritime Center, Port Townsend, WA. Nick will be showing works from several different series which include both figurative, landscape, and abstract. This will be an impressive exhibition, so if you happen to be in Port Townsend or headed that way, the opening is June 3, 5:30-8:00.
‘Brown Curve,’ photograph by Nick Reid
Over at Marrowstone Press, I’ve been busy with my friend Joanna MacLean; we’re working on her next publication, a luscious art book featuring her portrait photographs of the people of Myanmar, at work, at play, and at prayer. We hope to have the book out in print by winter of 2017/18. Last year we published her book, Two Eggs and a Lemon, a memoir of her four years in Myanmar, working with the International Red Cross.
Last year, at Marrowstone Press, we also published Peter Weltner’s
“The Return of What’s Been Lost‘s fourteen stories and fourteen “choral” poems mediate on loss, personal and cultural, and on how mourning embodies in the self, incarnate and haunting, the hugeness of what is missing. The book begins during the Second World War, moves into the years immediately after it, enters into the era of Vietnam and later the AIDs epidemic, and ends with the wars in Iraq. Not all losses are absolute; joy also returns. In the story, “Return of the Fallen,” Paul Lassiter thinks, “How much the dead must miss us to imprint their lives on ours.” David Morris, Auther of Eros and Illness
‘At the Well’ galenograph 2017
More information about Of Water Sacred
in the next journal posting.
Blessings from the river