October 16, 2008

Judith Belzer: Crawling along the bark of a tree

In the SF Chronicle, Edward Guthmann profiles Judith Belzer, whose tree-bark paintings are featured at Room For Painting Room For Paper this month. "'A lot of people look at nature as something remote and romantic, far removed from us,' Belzer says. 'But I've always been interested in seeing nature as an active force in our experience - not something that's, you know, saved for a nice day when you decide to go for a walk.' Belzer walks a lot: in Tilden Park, in the streets surrounding her home. She doesn't take photographs or draw sketches on her wanderings, but returns to her studio and makes paintings 'very much out of my head and my imagination.' When she works she's always listening - to the radio, to a podcast or more often to a book on tape. 'It's actually really great for doing visual work. I really don't understand how the brain works at all, but somehow, by engaging with a narrator, it's very stimulating to the visual side of my brain. In a funny way, it almost distracts me so I'm not overthinking what I'm doing.'"

At Belzer's website, check out her lovely, blog-like artist's statement. "Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of crawling along the bark of a tree and then, somehow penetrating to the tree’s interior is enticing, even thrilling. I would find myself exploring an alternate landscape, completely strange and yet in some respects peculiarly familiar. Would I be a tiny ant-sized being gazing upon monumentally scaled ridges, peaks and valleys busily pushing their way through space, or would I be a giant looking, as if through a microscope, at pulsing veins of energy in constant motion? I imagine it might be an unlikely combination of the two perspectives. My tree fantasy returns me to elementary school science class and to words like cambium, xylem (up) and phloem (down), and then pitches me forward into a horror movie in which the heroic trees are striving madly to suck carbon from the atmosphere as fast as the humans and their infernal machines can spew it out..."

"The Inner Life of Trees: Recent Paintings by Judith Belzer" Room for Painting Room for Paper, San Francisco, CA. Through Nov. 8.

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