Sunday, October 3, 2021

Other Stories

 Jenny Siegfried

July 2021

There's something deeply beautiful and profound that happens when the natural narratives in the world start to intervene and converse with our own human and historical stories; as an artist, I've always been drawn to exploring this symbiotic relationship, exploring abandoned and historical buildings, homes, and settlements, searching for keys to past ways of life or unexpected tales and moments in nature and time. The Rensing Center was the perfect place to continue digging through the past, and in the dirt! The pastoral landscape of Pickens is a lush green landscape that provides a peaceful contrast to the frenetic energy found in its decaying homes and buildings.

The Pickens County Museum and Hagood Mill Historic Site were both an excellent start into the architectural history of Pickens, but our weekly potluck not only brought excellent conversation and food... but also a surprise path into the deep local history! After a wonderful discussion about the value and importance of visually documenting abandoned or decaying architecture, I was given a beautiful hand drawn map from Jon Fritz, showing a number of homes less than two miles away from the Rensing Center that were in such a state of decay that it seemed as if nature was solidly reclaiming its turf. After a morning of climbing through thorny bushes and wading through waist-high weeds, I had taken dozens and dozens of photographs of a selection of homes, all built in the 30s and 40s and sitting unoccupied for decades now... and all magically deep in the grasp of the local plants and foliage taking ownership of these buildings and human stories. Root structures overturned porch supports, ivy and weeds latticed entire walls unrecognizable, and through the broken, now glass-less second story windows, arms of branches and leaves reached out through, grasping towards the sunshine. 

Completely inspired, these photos became the basis for a series of paintings I completed that very same day; gradated washes of watercolor form skyscapes and mountain ridges in the distance (calling back to visits that same week to Sassafras Mountain, Table Rock State Park, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park), while ghostly white linear paintings of roof fragments and window panes sit stoic and slowly dissolving in the foreground. Our human narratives feel so strong and deeply important, but when carefully stepping on the crumbling concrete footpath leading to a home that's being razed solely through natural means and materials, it's evident that ours is not the only relevant narrative to tell.

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