Tweetspeak’s virtual Literary Tours take us to destinations of all kinds, finding inspiration in places such as art museums, libraries, and natural settings. Today, we visit an art installation at the Thoreau Center for Sustainability.
A seed of serendipity led us to the Cafe Rx, located inside the Thoreau Center for Sustainability in the Presidio, a national park set in San Francisco, California. The Rx Cafe serves delicious organic food in a casual setting with tables next to large windows overlooking a green lawn and a few picnic tables.
Walking to the cafe down a bright sunlit hallway, I see these words printed in white on glass:
“Though I do not believe that a
plant will spring up where no seed
has been, I have great faith in a
— Henry David Thoreau
In keeping with the Thoreau Center’s mission, the China Brotsky Gallery around the corner from the cafe features an artistic view of living in harmony with nature: Jennifer Ewing’s exhibit, “Healing Spirit Boats…Open your heart and take the journey.”
Ms. Ewing, who calls herself a “Spiritboatist, ” says, “Spirit boats came to me as a vehicle to relieve grief after loosing [sic] my father in 2004. His death was the birth of my new work using the boat as my vehicle to navigate change…. As the months passed Spirit Boats grew becoming alligned [sic] with a universal journey we share as humans.”
Her father’s death served as a seed for Ms. Ewing’s creativity and art, which matured and bloomed in the display before me.
A large hull of a boat made out of wood, twine, paper bags and glue stands upright about 5’ tall, with its back half missing as it rests on a square glass mirror ringed in rocks. Does this represent life coming out of the hidden depths? A birth, perhaps?
Several abstract paintings are part of the exhibit. One has a dreamy, ethereal feel as a single boat sits in the midst of soft, muted whites and light pinks. In another painting, a boat floats in air, suspended in a band of light in its center, but surrounded by streaky downward brushes of bright red, green and blue.
One of the most striking exhibits, “Autoboatography, ” is 14’ wide and 7’ tall and composed of 65 boats hung using fish wire. Each boat represents one year of Ms. Ewing’s 65 years. Ten boats hang one above the other, like an upright ladder, to signify a decade of her life. The farthest left row includes only five boats for the most recent five years of her life. A recycled plastic water bottle forms each boat’s frame, but each boat is unique and intricately decorated.
At a glance, each boat appears covered in luminous ivory-white paper, wrapped or even stitched with varying patterns of twine. Five bowed rings topped with a piece of light beige twine create a canopy over the top of one boat. Another has a jagged teeth pattern on its side. I admire a delicate ivory twine pattern hanging over yet another boat. I wonder how Ms. Ewing interpreted the events of those years through these designs and narrowed a single year of her life into one small boat. I am especially curious about the boats representing her earliest years, when most of us have no conscious memory yet we retain emotional memory.
In Jennifer Ewing’s “Autoboatography, ” I see her vision of how each “boat is a body, unique from all other bodies. A boat is timeless and is relevant to all cultures, creating a powerful archetype as a symbol of change.”
And her use of recycled water bottles in her art depicts how a seed of Thoreau’s dream for sustainability has beautifully bloomed.
Our virtual Literary Tours take us to literary and artistic destinations of all kinds, including writer’s residences, libraries, museums, galleries, and historical locations.
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