Gwen Arkin has photographed W. S. Merwin’s forest for nearly two years, from time to time sharing with him both her images and her responses to the rare individual organisms in his unique garden. Merwin’s generous sharing of his property and quiet support of Ms. Arkin’s artistic voice lends this work deep significance, infusing each image with far more than documentary value. To view more of Gwen Arkin’s photos of the palms click here.
In Her Own Words
“Artists, poets and writers have long found creative inspiration in the forest, and I am no different. I am enraptured and inspired by the power of these environments. I have found artistic inspiration photographing the largest Cottonwood trees in North America, one of the largest stands of Aspens in the world, and the Bristlecone pine, the oldest living organism on the planet.
How blessed I feel to have been invited to create art in the palm garden of W.S. Merwin. Once again, the trees have proffered my muse in their ancient forms, sentries of a delicate and sublime natural kingdom.
Through my images I hope to recreate my own sense of awe and profound inspiration when in such an extraordinary place. I also hope to bring attention to the cultural and environmental importance of this and other rare forests. They are, after all, the keepers of our water source and the filters of the very air we breathe.”
The Color Study
About the silks . . .
The silks were coated in the sensitizers, dried and then taken out to the palm garden, where they were wrapped around individual trees. Long exposures to ever-changing light created shapes and shadows from the fronds and trunks around which they were wrapped. Additional layers of sensitizer were added and foliage collected from the garden was laid onto the fabric and exposed to light. Exposed areas turn either blue (cyanotype) or brown (van dyke brown), while the coating on unexposed areas washes away, leaving behind the shape of the pieces of foliage.