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Thinking and Moving with Trees by Rainey Straus

Saturday, June 29, 2024 7:36 AM | Anonymous

Rainey Straus, Blown Away, 5 x 10 feet, acrylic and watercolor on Yupo paper, 2022

The following pieces were developed for a public event in conjunction with the Old Growth Project, shown at Marin MOCA over the spring/summer of 2024. The gathering combined an artist talk by Rainey Straus with movement exploration led by Aline Wachsmuth to explore the creative process behind the painting series and somatically experience the life cycle of a Redwood tree.

Thinking with the Trees

Rainey Straus, June 17, 2024

The Old Growth Project

The Old Growth Project started with a walk in the woods, specifically in Prairie Creek and Redwood National Parks up north in Humbolt County. But truthfully, this project started more than 30 years ago when I moved to California. Although I’ve spent many years here enjoying the great outdoors — I’ve never become “of this place,” I’ve stayed on the beautiful surface. So core to this investigation is my desire to grow more intimate with my home — to inhabit this specific place, especially as the climate changes before my eyes.

The paintings in this show are essentially artifacts of a relationship-building practice. They may appear “tree-like,” but they also hold all the stories, experiences, and learnings that emerged over the past two years of research and making. These paintings carry multiple questions, grief, loss, and tremendous awe and wonder.

At the end of the day, as Robin Wall Kimmer speaks to so beautifully in Braiding Sweetgrass, this project is an effort to become kin to the beings I share space with.

The Importance of Stories

This notion of narrative or story is very important to me in framing this work. The thinking of so many writers has nourished the Old Growth Project. Still, related to story, I look to the work of Jeremy Lent (The Patterning Instinct), Amitav Ghosh (The Nutmeg’s Curse), Indigenous scientist/scholars Robin Wall-Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass), and Tyson Yunkaporta (Sand Talk, Right Story/Wrong Story) to guide my thinking.

From this research, I take away three critical concepts:

The First:
Stories are the foundation of culture; they hold the values that drive our actions and behaviors. Stories can be held in the land.

We are entrenched in the “wrong story,” a story of separation, extraction, monoculture, and human dominance.

I think we all know the outcomes of this story, so I won’t go deeply into what is not news to any of you.

We need to live from different stories, diverse stories, new stories that incorporate the wise use of modern technologies, ancient stories that model the right relationship with the more-than-human world, and stories that reflect care and reciprocity.

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