A branch-inspired series: Spiritus Naturalis


Marsh Slyph





For me, a studio series starts naturally after I’ve been focused on other creative efforts for a while. I return to the artistic nest ready to embrace a lingering new material or aesthetic direction, open to what serves the exploration. It’s an unabashed act of optimism, knowing from experience that the initial endeavors may well be backtracked, reconsidered, perhaps jettisoned as the gist of the work emerges.

It’s an exquisite arc from adventurous curiosity to starting a new artful family—fueled by showing up daily and leaning into the journey of tasks inherent in a practice of making. I count among my gifts a romantic’s fondness for the beauty of honest labor, and a monk’s inclination to stillness: listening, watching, inviting.

Walk in the Wild is the lone survivor of the earlier explorations for this new series, Spiritus Naturalis. I wondered at the time if this new direction would evolve into works that don’t emit light, and for now it is so. 





Along the way of initial discovery, there’s a piece that turns out to be definitional. It’s an evolutionary leap in the work that brings to focus the hazy potential lingering about, quickens the heart with realization of others of its ilk yearning to come through. The pivotal piece in this series was Marsh Sylph.

I was several pieces into the exploration before realizing this family of works were embodiments of nature spirits. Sylph has long been a term for imaginary spirits of air and earth, and I love its poetic lilt.     






The fleshy, sensual Madrona trees on the island provide branches ideal for playing with creature form. The process of reimagining and rearranging them reveals the nature of each piece.

Introducing the copper tendrils with their pod-like tips allows me to integrate
spiraling elements that seem intelligent and curious with the wonderfully odd wildness of the branch forms. 






At roughly 6' tall, Marsh Sylph has a heron-like feel. I readily imagine it wading out in the marshlands, at home with the grasses and reeds.











Spiritus Naturalis series: Winter Sky Leafelope












Winter Sky Leafelope is the second piece in the series with a floating, leaf-shaped landscape.  

Here the plane evokes sky with a pair of leaves comprised of numerous leaf-shaped clouds. Besides its antelope-like stance, there's an antler piercing the clouds, fading to lighter, bonier tones. 




The legs are of earthier, richer colors, with watery tendrils coursing through, cycling the sense of movement back up into the tree-like antler.

Spiritus Naturalis series: Cloud Garden Leafipede






This is Cloud Garden Leafipede, the first of the Spiritus Naturalis series to embody a landscape floating in midair.


All of the earlier pieces in this series have tendrils intertwining with madrona branch forms, but in this one the tendrils are separate, ending in leaf-like clouds that cast shadows on the mobile garden/leaf plane.






Cloud Garden Leafipede is 42"L x 26"H

Spiritus Naturalis series: Tidepool Waven







Making this piece reminded me of how much I love creating things that, despite their actual stillness, refuse to remain so in human perception. 



I love the flocks of choices in arranging and rearranging materials toward gestural aliveness. Beyond the roughing-in and refining of the flow of the form, I work with paper banding on the surfaces to set up sequences of color and density, adding a pulsing quality.




Tidepool Waven is both a crustaceous form and the waves coursing through it. This piece feels like a sibling of Surf Sylph.

29"H x 42"L x 16"D

Spiritus Naturalis: Surf Sylph






Surf Sylph stands offshore, its legs in the cool water, ushering the force of water and wind meeting land. 

With a crustacean feel in form and color, it reminds me of unusual, colorful tide pool creatures.


It's ideally a tabletop piece at about 30" tall.


Spiritus Naturalis: Bog Sylph




Having just gotten some peat moss for the garden, it wasn't a big leap to see this creature at home in a peat bog, given its stouter stance and earthy colors. Its main tendril seems lasso-like in form, but intelligent, curious, erotic and perhaps fatal to prey.

Sometimes it seems very still, yet ready to leap into action. At others, like it's in motion already.   

Bog Sylph is 45" tall.


Spiritus Naturalis: Tailwind Sprite







A core delight for me in sculpting is setting up a perceived eruption of stillness into motion. The object remains stationary, but the being observing it experiences a sense of movement, bringing it to life. 


Tailwind Sprite seems blown from behind, keen on moving in a forward direction. Its base is cooler-toned with greens, blues and purples. Warm red and yellow tendrils revel in being blown onward.

This piece stands about 56" tall.