Approaching Biocenology: The Science
We have some technologies for aiding
our quest toward consciousness, toward life-death-life cycle affirmation.
These are the technologies of symbol making, experiencing community
as spirit, infusing wildness with cultivation, blending the natural
and the cultural with conscience. These technologies make each of
us everyday artists.
I like to explore different landscape representations to express
my personal experiences and cultural interactions with geography.
I am interested in the conflicts which arise from our expectations
about land use, expectations shaped by idealized art and design
images and our vernacular urban setting. By employing the approach
of pattern and decoration, I would like to create a different language
referring to many traditions including maps, classical and middle
eastern mosaics, decorative art, textile design, indigenous paintings
and shrine technologies of many cultures. The term biocenology characterizes
this interface of cultural and natural systems because it is the
study of communities and member interactions in nature; it is an
exploration of systems, part of the science of ecology.
Currently I work with acrylic, encaustic, mixed media and printmaking
approaches. Some paintings feature topographic maps which I image
onto handmade paper. Others incorporate shapes or formal structures.
Upon this layer, I lay acrylic or encaustic washes; sometimes more
than one to build luminosity and relate to the landscape. Then I
add stamped images of animals such as fish, birds and eggs and seeds,
using brilliantly colored and iridescent pigments derived from mica.
Texts may be included. With these techniques, I am trying to express
the complexity of overlapping multiplicity and the tendency of natural
processes to pursue cycles of life.
Topographic maps appeal to me because they are created by physically
active scientists and engineers who document the terrain directly
by walking on it. Intimacy with a place affects our relationship
to it. I try to see as much as I can most of the places I depict.
During a residency at North Cascades National Park in Washington
State in 2006, I received a topographic map drawn by park staff
in 1976. This map shows landmarks which no longer exist due to erosion
and other natural effects. I was struck by the temporal nature of
this document and the evasiveness of the geography to reinforce
a static view. Similarly, the events of the Mt. St. Helens eruption
in 1980 revealed a dramatic transformation erasing park boundaries
and property lines as well as the picturesque image of an idealized
mountain. Visiting the Korean South Sea area in June 2011, I witnessed
the dramatic impact of Typhoon Maeri with massive flooding and loss
of life and livelihood. Yet traditional technologies refined over
hundreds of years had by the 8th Century CE managed flooding, soil
retention and, at Bulguk-sa, a Buddhist temple community complex,
the urban comfort of tens of thousands of people in a concentrated
In its relentless desire for control, the Western landscape tradition
distances the viewer from the outdoors and people, offering a timeless
illusion. Visual traditions and themes create a kind of language
that exerts a powerful effect on social consciousness. Artists choose
particular traditions and themes to explore and alter these ranges
of expression. Much of my work over the past thirty years expresses
the theme Land Use: An Alchemical Treatise to explore the
connections between our belief systems about society and how we
treat the planet, each other. I want to create new narratives that
reaffirm our ties to where we live, people who came before, the
planet, nature and its cycles.
Alice Dubiel January 2015