With Rewind, Sandy Kunze explores a deep connection to the trees that surround us, and deepens an inspired relationship with her process. For this exhibition, Kunze has embraced a mode of working with materials that is more about exploring, feeling, and sensing than representing a form or making an image. With wood, wool, ink and wax, Kunze enters into a conversation with the trees and the altered landscape, and gives shape to complex ideas about loss, resilience, transformation, and the material evidence of life.
On a visit to the Empire of Dirt* to make work on site, the visible signs that the land had been logged led Kunze to thoughts of the trees that were removed, and how their echoes and ashes remain there still. The drawings she made that day, worked up with charcoal from their afternoon’s fire, envision those many mother trees that used to tower and sway in that place. Back at her home studio, Kunze erased the many mother trees from the drawings, leaving only the few and slender young trees that now stand alone and in small clutches here and there. The loss of those mother trees leaves the saplings exposed to the elements but also poised to take their place, in time. It also leaves the landscape transformed.
While Kunze was preparing the works for this exhibition, a very old, dangerously large tree was felled in her yard. Its remains were piled and sorted in various stages of being tidied away, and they became both inspiration and raw material for her creative process. The small branches were burned and their ashes are now entombed in free form ceramic urns that sit on blocks cut from the same tree. Kunze draped the logs destined for the woodshed with heavy felt fabric, and took impressions of their bark through an intuitive printmaking process. Some of the wood from the tree found its way to being the new seats for three old school chairs. These familiar old chairs, interwoven with a memory of her grandmother’s candy-filled pockets, prompted Kunze to consider the pain of children sent away to residential school, and their grandmothers’ pockets, never pilfered by small hands. These are set in the gallery with an offering of chewing gum for the viewer to enjoy and then add to the underside of the seat.
Rewind is both memorial and reincarnation, devotional and document, its works both sombre and tender. Kunze wrote: “I collected lichen on a hike with my sisters. I dried it out and saved it intending to give it to my son. I began to think about the lichen’s need to have the tree for a host and without the trees the lichen would have no one to speak with…a story untold. What other things are affected directly or indirectly? When we incorporate wood into our surroundings it now bears witness to our lives, becoming part of the human conversation. The tree’s story has been transformed, no longer does it speak with its siblings or the rain. My favourite paint brush, also made of wood, has born witness to the application of many tubes of color, but is now retired and ultimately surrendered back to the lichen…I wonder if they are still talking?”
written by Lisa S. Benschop