Today, April 5th, I went to sit in at Mark Iwinski’s lecture. He is a multi-disciplinary artist who has done sculptures, print-making, drawing, frescoes, and some photography. For sculptures, his main medium is wood from old fallen trees or logs that he has found. Mark Iwinski believes that sculpture is a way of activating and enhancing the space with meaning. Print-making on the other hand, was a new medium for him. He explained that more of his prints were organic and reflect the structure breaking down or sprouting out. Iwinski has taught at many well-known colleges such as Dartmouth, Cornell, and William & Mary. He has had exhibitions all around the world, but just to name a few he showed in the Springfield Art Museum, Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie, Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, and an exhibition in 2006, “Ghost Trees and Crosscuts: Intersections Between Forest and History,” at the Wriston Art Center at Lawrence University. Iwinksi has also done group exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
In the lecture, Mark Iwinski explained that it is important to connect to the always changing landscape around us. His journey is to go in search for the forgotten language of the forests. This consists of a lot of hiking through national parks and various forests, photographing, and researching. He is all about being the observer and seeing how things grew and changed in the landscape. Even though he grew up in Milwaukee, he really enjoyed moving to Vermont in 1999 because “it was a place where a lot of things changed”. During his presentation, he was really fascinated with the tree that grew over a stone as if the roots of the tree were like a fist grasping onto the stone. Iwinski was interested in the constant growth and at times, destruction of the forest.
Mark Iwinski is also very interested in urban architectural history, time, and models of time. When he said that to the audience, I thought his lecture definitely related well with my visual thinking class. Iwinski enjoys the abstractions and geometric forms of old models of time one of them being the sun-dial. He was so intrigued that he decided to make his own. I thought it was interesting how he made his own versions of the old tools of keeping time because it makes something so ordinary into something more abstract and also adds more meaning. I also liked how he pointed out the relationships between the models. For example, the sun-dial with the sun. Alchemy, the transmuting of one element to another, also strongly influences Mark Iwinski’s work. Some of his sculptures were created as a “sense of presence” where there is an optical illusion from looking at the “void” of his piece. He explains the void as being “metaspace” where the hole or void seems like another three-dimensional shape that pops out of the piece. In addition to the metaspaces, he has made some sculptures where branches sprout out of 3D shapes such as spheres, cubes, and cones. Iwinski wanted to emphasize the transmuting of, for example, a sphere into a tree that is growing out of it.
We learned about the sizes of some of the trees he has encountered, which were mostly chestnut trees. He said that some Chestnut trees could go up to 150 feet or higher and can be 9 feet or more in diameter. The bark alone can be about 5 or more inches thick. I thought that was quite impressive. Iwinski then discussed that the trees in the forests used to be even bigger, almost twice as big as they are now. I find it kind of depressing because of all the urban renewal, which leads to deforestation. Mark Iwinski has a done a great job researching how much human beings have affected the environment mainly focusing on the states of canopies. Since the artist was also very interested in urban architectural history, he pointed out that colonial warships took about 20,000 or more acres of lumber to make. I thought that it was ridiculous and never realized how much wood was being used to benefit people back in those days, and now it makes me more aware of how often we use wood and paper on a regular basis.
Mark Iwinski is a really “go green” kind of guy, which makes him a much a cooler artist because he really does care about the environment and how we use it. Instead of cutting tree stumps from the forest to install in his exhibitions, he casts them. Then once the plaster of the stump is dried, he uses that as his art form. These are known as his famous “Ghost Trees”, which I find fascinating. In order to get prints of his stumps, he has to travel to find one in the forest while bringing along his supplies such as ink and paper. The chainsaw marks in his prints express the visual language of the forest that Iwinski is looking for. The more violent the strokes, the more powerful his prints are. He also explained that the chainsaw marks act as a warning to the people that we should not be encouraging deforestation. Mark Iwinski made a very good point about our environment when said, “We live in a place where it’ll never be pure again”. I agree with him because we cannot go backwards in time, but we can find the “traces” of the past.