Tripod Complex

carbon on paper

diptych, 31.5 x 96 inches


Several years ago, the way I viewed trees changed dramatically. At a lecture on deforestation, the speaker provided this dramatic statistic: “A mature tree processes approximately 300 gallons of water a day.”  It occurred to me that a tree is more than an aerial reach of branches and terrestrial dive of roots. A tree is an object of breath. What we cannot see around a tree is a great plume of water vapor.

At the time, I was working with Chinese inks composed of carbon derived from burning the heartwood of pine trees. I saw a dramatic material link: the living tree produces a plume of water; when burned, it produces a plume of carbon. I decided to see if I could use this carbon from the tree as a pigment to articulate the breath of trees—to render the invisible visible.

Ultimately, the idea of painting a tree with carbon from a tree led me to China to study the history of Chinese ink-making. I collected a vast amount of primary materials on Chinese carbon inks and studied with contemporary Chinese ink-makers. This painting is made with inks I developed from this experience. The carbon here is sourced from the aftermath of the Tripod Complex Fire that burned 180,000 acres in North-Central Washington in 2006. This was one of the largest forest fires in Washington State history.

This painting is currently on display at Seven Hills Winery.