Forage: to wander or go in search of provisions; to search about; to seek.
Foraging is an act of connecting to what we are of, what we have lost and what we can be again. Western Culture, fraught with disconnect, keeps itself separate from the environment in order to exploit it. Such separation is not reality, it is ideology and, as such, can be transformed.
The art process of foraging is particularly resonant in the work of textile artists, creators who gather their provisions for their work from their immediate environments. Foraging artists resist consumer culture and its products that come from locations that are absolutely removed from place. In artwork or otherwise, when embracing our immediate environment, we can smell, touch and immerse ourselves in relationships of reciprocity, rather than in states of unidirectional taking, using and throwing away. Artists who forage resist through connection.
Bobbi Sue Smith resides in Paris, France and forages from the streets, parks, cemeteries and local markets of the city; Annie Robinson lives in Powell River, a small coastal town in British Columbia, Canada, and forages from the beaches and forests that surround the town. Their connection to place is absolute; the artists gather as they give back; nothing is taken. Robinson and Smith’s artworks are composed of soft resistances that guide, soothe and awaken tranquility in the environment we are all of.
Karen Moe, editor.
Annie Robinson Golden Hour Thickened natural dyes & paints made from marigold, copper pipe, indigo, iron & cochineal (beetles) on raw canvas 25" x 30" 2020.
There’s a spark in the irony of finding an industrial artifact on the beach and experiencing it as both troubling and beautiful. This is a coexistence I express in my work, pairing colours made from industry with colours made from natural materials. My work is abstract landscape and daydreams of my borrowed home: qathet Region, BC, Canada. This is the traditional and ceded territory of the Tla’amin people.
Annie Robinson Finding a Place 5 Foraged inks, earth pigments mixed with soy milk on cotton paper 8" x 10" 2020.
These pieces were all created during an artist residency this past summer at Tidal Art Centre in Lund, BC. My husband and I both did a residency there and our daughter, Magnolia, stayed with us. Every other morning we would go on walks down by the ocean or along the rural roads to find berries, metal pieces, roots, and flowers. These foraged materials became inks and paints for art-making in the afternoon (and of course, many of the berries would get eaten). This was a fun way to be “working” with my daughter and connect to the land we are privileged to enjoy.
Annie Robinson pouring marigold.
The major forms in the larger paintings were placed by dipping and pouring colour onto canvas in the tidal zone down in Finn Bay and in the terrain near the Tidal Art Centre. For the paintings on canvas, the colour is a thickened natural dye and the inks are made from a foraged copper pipe, iron, indigo, marigolds, cochineal, and cutch. The inks used for the paper pieces are from foraged materials and earth pigments. Color sources: a copper pipe, service berries, indigo, ochres, charcoal, marigolds, and cochineal beetles.
Annie Robinson Finding a Place 1 Foraged inks, earth pigments mixed with soy milk on cotton paper 8" x 10" 2020.
Using foraged and natural color to depict the land I live on is an intuitive choice for me. It’s authentic, more accurate, and more sustainable than using other sources of colour. Pairing this intuition with pour painting and ink drawing gives a flow to work that feels more like giving birth than being in control, and I prefer this state of making. It’s a discovery to see what happens, how paint makes shape and depicts the earth it streams over.
Annie Robinson, April, 2020.
Annie Robinson in the tidal zone.
Bobbi Sue Smith
Dans les Pages de la Memoire (In the Pages of Memory )
These still-life photographs are part of a photographic series documenting a ritual of “unbundling” of a small eco-printed book I created to record a moment in time for future contemplation.
Using only leaf windfall in the process to create the images, this book of watercolour paper pages suspends in time a day spent exploring the landscapes and graves—both infamous and mysterious—of the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris during Samhain 2019. It was bundled with a rusty iron plate foraged on an adventure earlier that fall in the brackish waters of Scotland.
Each gravesite contributed just a leaf or two, plucked from among the autumn decay festooning the sites of pilgrimage for those who come to pay respect to their heroes, forebears who have comforted us through the ages with their writing, music, art, inventions, philosophy, and philanthropy: a leaf chosen amongst thousands to be savoured and contemplated. These colourful, sodden treasures were transported back to the studio and reverently arranged between folded sheets of watercolour paper, then string-bound between rock and iron.
I dropped this rusty, autumnal bundle into a bubbling cauldron, my studio filling with the aroma of dark earth and the sweet odour of decay, the olfactory components of the ritual both triggering memories and creating them simultaneously.
How does this ritual of creating leaf shadows on paper with leaves from the tree with its roots in the grave of Appollinaire cultivate for me an appreciation of this artist who lived and worked in Paris 100 years before? Especially as I contemplate now that he was not lucky enough to survive the last pandemic Paris experienced in 1918?
“Frôlée par les ombres des morts
Sur l'herbe où le jour s'exténue”
(Grazed by the shadows of the dead
On the grass where the day is exhausted)
–Appollinaire, Crépuscule, 1913
My artwork frequently explores the themes of memory, ritual, and story. As we approach Beltane (also referred to in Celtic as Cetsamhain, or opposite Samhain), I needed to revisit this Samhain ritual from the Before Times of life in France, when venturing from home was a given instead of a luxury.
Honouring the dead is a key component of both holy days, to ask for their continued blessings and protection. This artwork/ritual of collecting and remembering asks What do I remember about those who came before? But also, notably, What will others remember about me?
The contemplative act of urban foraging in this Maison des Morts continues the narrative thread in my work, contemplating how humans try to understand the passing of time and how we record memories for future generations.
Bobbi Sue Smith April, 2020.
To learn more about the role of foraging in my artwork, please read the Vigilance article Foraging for Story.
Annie Robinson Rise Up! Thickened natural dyes & paints made from marigold, copper pipe, indigo, iron & cochineal (beetles) on raw canvas 25" x 37" 2020.
About the Artists:
Annie Robinson is a painter, natural dyer, and lover of foraging. Her work articulates place and expresses landscape. It draws attention to the magic of a natural scene through a simple, flowing visual language. Annie uses many different materials: paint made from foraged and natural materials, naturally dyed textiles, anything from the forest or on the beach that will bring color to a canvas.
Originally from Ohio, USA, Annie lives and works on the homelands and territories of the Tla’amin People, qathet (Powell River), British Columbia, Canada. She honors the land, the Tla’amin People and their treaty, and considers herself a guest and fellow celebrator of this beautiful landscape.
Annie’s art practice is inspired by a deep desire for joy shared with others and a physical and spiritual connection to the land. She is fueled daily by mothering her daughter and enjoys all of it with her husband and fellow artist, Joshua DeGroot.
Her recent exhibitions include: "Finding a Place. Tidal Art Centre, Lund BC 2020, Residency exhibit); "A Shifting Landscape," digital exhibition 2020; "Earth an Abstract" Port Angeles Fine Art Centre, curated show for the 50th anniversary of earth day 2020.
Bobbi Sue Smith is a visual artist who has worked in both solo and collective capacities in communities ranging from the isolated to the metropolitan. Her work in painting, textile, and photography collects and questions the impressions of the quotidian experience, paying particular attention to the roles of memory and story. Her diverse body of work is unified by the aim of promoting discourse and critical thinking about materiality, process, class politics, and the socio-political contributions of the handmade.
Website: https: //www.madebysmitty.com/
Forage is a series featuring artists who use natural materials and found, or foraged, objects in their artwork. It addresses the ideas of what is left behind, what is lost and then found again, what has been here all along and overlooked, how the foraged can be seen differently than the bought, what the narrative is of the artist/witness interacting with the ‘coming-upon’ of their materials. How does the art—in its relinquishing of materials produced by consumer capitalism—speak to our contemporary world as acts of resistance?
To submit, please send 5 images, jpgs, minimum 3 mgs; narratives for each artwork or one narrative for all that describes your process and your realtionship to foraging in your artwork and a Bio to: email@example.com.
See Forage Issue One: