Man’s Fingerprint on Nature

Posted in: Art, Faith | 0

For we are fallen like the trees, our peace
Broken, and so we must
Love where we cannot trust…
– Wendell Berry

The assignment: Man’s fingerprint on nature.  An ecological/environmental theme.

The concept: The distancing of humanity from nature and the elimination of the sabbath – our absence from the natural world, created by a man-made buffer of distractions and our lack of restfulness  leads to nature’s destruction.

The media: Mixed media collage and drywall on wooden panel.

The challenge: Intellectual trying to present a concept like this visually.  Past attempts have left me fearful at best – Fear of the beastly obvious, for example, a magazine collage of road signs reading “pollution” “oil spills” “toxins”. Fear of reincarnating a couple skeletons from my past – specifically:

1. An intricate collage that depicted the road to hell with glaring detail;
2. My doorstop-of-a-novel, which was a culmination of my life experiences to that point.

The process: I tried to counter any potential “eco-art” disasters by choosing a subtle and personal theme.  I also researched eco-artists and found many examples that weren’t ghastly (for example, those linked to

I was off to a good start – had some enviable good mark-making going on in the drywall, had some beautiful vacant fields.  My big plan was to collage paper-doll like cutouts of outfits  from a fashion magazine on my scene (the outfits where no one is wearing them but they’re laid out from earrings to shoes).  But this was too obvious still.  So I was instructed to keep going with my obliteration of nature.

After smearing down leaves off of the street, dribbling paint over my forest scene, and harshly scratching at the drywall to give the sense of destruction, I wonder if this is the direction I wanted to take things.  I’m lamenting the fact that we’re losing touch with nature – indirectly we’re losing nature, allowing it to be destroyed.  Without noticing.

And the loss of the sabbath, for me, the unnatural cycle of the 24-7 society means neglecting stewardship, losing rest that was given to us as a gift.

It is the destruction of the world
in our own lives that drives us
half insane, and more than half.
To destroy that which we were given
in trust: how will we bear it?
It is our own bodies that we give
to be broken, our bodies
existing before and after us
in clod and cloud, worm and tree,
that we, driving or driven, despite
in our greed to live, our haste
to die.  To have lost, wantonly,
the ancient forests, the vast grasslands
in our madness, the presence
in our very bodies of our grief.
– Wendell Berry

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