There are large cedar trees growing outside my studio window. They are so close it is as if I could reach out and touch them. The cedars are one hundred and fifty years old. I spend a lot of time looking out and wondering how many thousands of needles there must be on a single branch.
For a number of years now, I have been painting these trees. Painting cedars is tedious; you have to contemplate the weight and angle of each needle, think about the spaces between, yet still maintaining a sense of the tree as a whole. (read more…)
For the past two years there has been is a big building site going on below. The day the dig began I looked out. Between the cedar branches I could see a large yellow bulldozer digging into the earth, hauling up the mounds of vegetation and soil in preparation for the foundation of the new building. The bulldozer stopped at the foot of the cedars. Since then, the oddly colourful machinery glides to and fro between the cedar branches and has become part of my daily enquiry.
During my break time I watch the builders. I have got to know some of their names. They have to shout in order for their voices to be heard above the noise of the machinery. I often listen to music, so during the summer months when my windows are open, the music, the cement belt, the buzzing signals and the sawing and hammering all fuse together into one sort of symphonic thing, topped off here and there by the sound of a single name. I have gotten used to the builders and they to me.
Giuseppe the crane operator knocked on my door. He brought me the high wooden chair that he had made to sit on whilst waiting. He had heard from the foreman that I wanted to have it. I noticed the builders have to wait quite a bit. I also spend a lot of time waiting; waiting for things to dry, waiting to know what to do next, waiting to know if what I have done will hold up. Giuseppe mentioned that he was also a sort of an artist; that for every new building site he worked on, he designed himself a new chair to sit on. He turned to look at the cedar paintings, crouched down, and looked carefully at the details.
Later, another builder also called Giuseppe arrived. He brought some used pieces of construction wood that he thought I might like. By then the builders knew I was an artist and that artists tend to like that sort of thing. He stood in the doorway looking straight at the painting opposite and said, “That’s me”. I wrote him a dedication of thanks on one of the many pictures I had taken of him. ”. He said that perhaps people would be more interested in builders if they would see that painting.”
The foreman accepted my invitation to visit. He stepped through the door, stood still for a moment and then said, “So this is your world.” I showed him the documentation I had been gathering; photos and videos of the builders and life on the site as I had seen it, from my window, through the cedar trees. He stood there where I usually stand and looked out onto the site. He told me that this was the most complex project he had ever done. I was thinking the same thing about my own project. Turning to look at the paintings he said, “But this must also be a lot of work”.
I was wondering later that day what, in Vincenzo’s mind, art was. At some point, I would ask him.
Angela Lyn, January 2015