The series of drawings, Riding the Tectonic Plates: Drawing Acts, was created in two phases. Both phases investigate methods used to understand the world. The first phase began in 1980. Archaeology was used as a case study. The emphasis was on methods used to approach and understand previous cultures. The surfaces are of raw, stretched canvas that acts as the surface of an archaeological dig; drawing marks are my tools. The grid of the weave of the canvas and the rectangular drawing surface become a basis for locating and measuring. Marks burrow into the grid of the canvas weave, pulling forth shards trapped in the ongoing action of physical and geological forces. The shard implies the presence of ancient horizons buried deep underground. How do these ancient horizons relate to our own? How can we understand them? How might that understanding transform our lives? The dig is a metaphor for the difficulty of understanding what we probe.
The second phase began in 2008, when I rediscovered these drawings. They were clearly unfinished. I returned to them filled with the awareness that meaning continues to expand as we ride the tectonic plates. The past is shifting beneath us, and science is uncovering new tools to extend our knowledge. When I reopened the dig, I allowed new layers to appear. The recent layers reveal fewer cultural shards and more devices (charts, graphs, maps and drawings of scientific models) used by humans to understand our world. Some scientists write that these devices entail the use of ‘conceptual’ or ‘conventional’ metaphors (metaphors that we use so often that we don’t think of them as metaphors) to investigate natural forces that our perceptual apparatus is unable to access directly. In this second phase I wished to create unusual landscape terrains, as seen through these devices. We experience the energy of natural forces caused not by rivers, mountains, and trees, but by streams of arrows, rocky shards, and graphs shaped like mountains. The surfaces of these drawings uncover events built of the very tools that we use to understand the events.
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