Last summer, I began working on a project that required ninety-six 4′ x 8′ sheets of wood to serve as an exhibit backdrop for a show featuring the best curated bonsai examples from around the world. This immediately sounded like a very exciting project, as bonsai is so visually exquisite, and so spiritually evocative – I was instantly drawn in. You can learn more about the exhibit itself, and even become involved if the idea intrigues you – the show will be in October at the Portland Art Museum, and is called The Artisans Cup of Portland. Check it out!
Anyway, my task was to come up with the wood material, and the mix of stains and/or paints that would bring about the desired effect – one of color gradations fading in and out, a sort of ombre effect, that would run the 64 foot length of each display row, of which there are 6. So I began by putting various color combinations together on sample boards of wood, and showing them to the clients. I also started playing with different fade patterns on the computer to see how they would look running the entire 64 feet. After we settled on the boards, and 3 different palettes (one drawn from ocean and sky, one from forest and sun, and one from earth and fire), I then had to set up a temporary studio that would hold a project of this size. I rented some space at the Academy Building in downtown Vancouver, Washington, and got busy tarping off an entire room (thank you, Hana Adamko!).
I am in the process of staining and painting the boards now – there are 16 boards in each set, and because the colors fade gradually from one board to the next, I need to paint all 16 at the same time, keeping the paint wet as I go. Then I move them out when they are dry, and bring in the next set. It has been a fun and meditative process, rolling and brushing the colors across such a long expanse of boards – I am really looking forward to seeing them with the bonsai exhibit on display.