The new shadow screen in my yard is now completed. Today I picked up the plastic spread over rocks I did not want to drip paint on. Put all the paint cans in a box with the brushes to have them all in one place for the next coat of paint. Thought I'd repaint it every year, using the paint for a protective coat over plywood that has been dry for ten years in the shed I keep scrap wood in. Now several coats of paint will keep it firm for several years. It's mortal, of course, and some day the plywood will do whatever old plywood does. It's not for all time. It's not universal. It's not high art. It's fun. Over about twenty years I've been keeping scrap wood in a shed that I used for a chicken shed about ten years. Now I want to convert the shed into a stable for two donkeys. The wood has to go. This project is made from scraps in the woodshed, none of them altered in any way. That was control number one, use the wood exactly as it is. For perspective, the disk is four feet across. The initial visual idea was a sun rising or setting behind the mountains. The disk was yellow and the horizontal waves were green with highlights of blue. I painted both sides the same. The side facing north toward the road is a yellow disk with green mountains. I wanted my side to be my own, different from the other side,
Friday a week ago I was sitting on an upside down five gallon bucket looking at it in its yellow and green phase wondering what I could do to make it my own. The other side faces the road. It's the public side. This side, the south side, is my own personal side. I did not want to do something I would get tired of seeing every day the rest of my life. First thought was to paint the disk Chinese red, a red that makes fire truck red look dull. Too powerful. I did not want the visual equivalent of a loud speaker playing heavy metal FM. I wanted something that would cooperate with the quiet calm I feel when I step out of the car and enter the canopy of trees. By the time I reach the door to the house, the trees have welcomed me showering their relaxing vibration all around where I walk. This is my small world of chipmunks, gray squirrels, red squirrels, several kinds of birds, crows. I wanted something that would flow in this immediate environment. It is situated with the flow of the wind through here. I don't anticipate the wind hurting it, unless we get another direct hit by hurricane like Hugo in 1984. Hugo would have sent it flying all the way to Pine Swamp. That's the worst extreme. It would take such as the most extreme to destroy it. The wind runs through here east and west. North and south winds go over the tops of the ridges. The house sits in a valley with ridges all the way around. It doesn't feel tucked in, but it is. Extreme storms are the only times the wind is bad.
Sitting on the bucket, gazing at the yellow disk, I was looking for something to give it some life, give it some lightness, make it dance. I visioned different colors and nothing was satisfying. Looking at possibilities in my head, I sat gazing at the yellow disk, watching the shadows from the trees move slowly, very slowly, across the disk. After watching the shadow the whole time looking at the movie screen on the inside of my forehead, bingo, I saw the shadow I'd been gazing at while my mind was looking inside. White was the answer. I wanted to make it a shadow screen. I wanted to make the circle like the Zen zero, black ink on white paper. Making the black outline makes the whole image a suggestion of ink on paper, same scene as other side; color on one side, black & white on the other. I did not want to depart from the color side. If I had not seen the shadow, I was thinking it would be fun to give a spray can of any color to everyone who stops by in the course of a month, and invite friends to do some spray can graffiti on it, kids especially. Anything. Anything they want to do. Cover it up with graffiti. I still think that would bring it to life. For me. When my inner eye connected with my outer eye, I found what I was looking for. If the other side can be called the sun in the mountains, this side can be called the moon in the clouds, making both sides of the construction a unit, like a coin. For anyone who wants to know if I call it a sculpture or a painting, I'd like to call it a stabile. Alexander Calder called his metal constructions that stood in place stabiles. I like that.
The lower horizontal edge is sixteen inches above the ground. It stands on one post, the one on the right. It is a mailbox post with the arm that holds the box planted in the ground like a fencepost, tamped down good. I had a 6x6 inch post standing under it at the other end while painting it. Replaced it with a rock that exact length, by chance, it standing on a flat rock. The weight of the construction holds the rock in place while the rock holds it up. It would eventually sag without a support. I chose that height to have it above splashes from rain on the ground, and the grass that grows in that area is about a foot and a half high. It will give the suggestion that it is floating on the grass. A wall of jewelweed stands behind it in the summer. The jewelweed has fallen down by now. It was as high as the goldenrod in the picture. It makes a beautiful background. Several ferns grow in this place. On the right is a small rhododendron that will be a little bit bigger each year. Soon it will become a part of the whole image. Standing to the right of it I have yet to plant Tom Pruitt's mailbox and post. It is at least seventy years old. It's made of steel. Has two bullet holes in each side, entry and exit. It's all rust. The post is old wood roughly nailed together with about four times as many big nails as needed. It is a memory of a good old friend.
The vertical posts are 6x6's and 8x8's, cut in different lengths between a foot and a half and two and a half feet. I have seven of them painted different colors, blue, green and white. Have stood each one on a flat rock. Placed them randomly. Will make changes. Have two more not painted yet. They are three feet long. I'm thinking about placing them horizontally on flat rocks. Using the rocks to keep the painted wood up off the damp ground to inhibit rot. These are blocks found here and there over the years. When I see one being thrown out at a building site, it goes into the trunk of the car. One more item for the shed full of wood scraps. Also thinking about painting the vertical blocks with different colors on each side and the top, kinda like that. Everything chance, as it happens at the moment. I wanted to stand the blocks because of a forecast for snow Wednesday. I don't know whether to believe it, but wanted the posts standing in case it does snow. It has the potential to be gorgeous in the snow. The snow will give me some ideas for the painting of the vertical blocks. Thinking about painting them white and black, each one differently. The snow will tell me. I look forward to seeing it with grass and ferns grown up around the posts so only their tops are visible. It works well with the feeling walking under the canopy of the trees, rhododendrons, big ferns, big rocks. It is a good place to sit on an upside down bucket and watch the shadows. Most of the time it has no shadows, and that is equally satisfying. It is a different light every time I see it. Fun is the best part. It was a fun project.
by tj worthington