0 comments / Posted by Kate Furman

A very special time in my life was in the years between when I graduated college and before I went to graduate school.  This is the time where I found myself. I pushed my boundaries, challenged my body and found courage. Mostly, I found my artistic inspiration, which is nature.  I was living in Jackson, Wyoming. I always loved the outdoors, but this was the first time that I got to fully live it. I worked as a raft guide for Sands Whitewater and as a lift operator at the local ski resort, Snow King Mountain. I taught a few classes for the local art center, but mostly I was immersed in hiking, kayaking, backpacking, rafting, skiing and anything that put me straight in the dirt, water and snow of Wyoming.  My sweat, tears, blood and soul will always be in Jackson Hole. This time taught me confidence in myself and my views on our environment.

As I was transitioning to graduate school in Providence, Rhode Island (talk about a culture shock!), I began using materials that I gathered back in Wyoming.  This is when raw wood found a prominent place in my artwork. I liked the ease in which I could cut and shape wood. I loved the contrast between heavy steel sheet and chain with soft and jagged wood.  I continue this work today. My wooden art jewelry is typically featured in galleries and juried exhibitions. I also have a full wall covered in these pieces in my studio. My “wall” has become a focal point of the shop.

 

To give you a little more insight into my art jewelry, here is an excerpt from my thesis book written in 2012 for Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

“My pieces tell stories.  They tell of storms weathered and turbulent whitewater navigated.  I collect things while I am wandering in wilderness, seduced by the cast-off flora generously littering the ground beneath my feet.  They are scored with lines and scars depicting their histories and hinting to aspects of the primitive environment we deprive ourselves of.  They are a part of the natural cycle, undisturbed and unprotected, and I aim to highlight their undulations and ornate subtleties. Each piece in my series evokes the place where it was found and what I was doing there.  Their presence alone serves as a sketchbook, or journal, of where I have been and what I have seen.

 I communicate with these objects through a process of give and take, similar to how we build relationships with each other. My investigation allows me to openly participate in this dialogue with the forest’s debris while jewelry’s proximity to the body deepens my understanding of it. Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents offers insight into my undertakings.  My working methodology references our need to control nature.  Freud sees “organic repression” as our human tendency to suppress it.  We do this through our instinct to control it physically and laboriously, as in clear-cutting forests for lumber, in order to continue developing.  Civilization is defined by the achievements that separate us from animals, including the ability to exploit the earth and to protect ourselves against its forces.  Our

illusions of domination over nature have been instilled into us.I believe there is an inherent arrogance to this human trait.  Natural disasters, including fires, challenge and defy our defenses. I want to form a

relationship with rather than oppress the monumental forces of this world I live in.  Deconstructing and reconstructing found wood shows my need to interact with and influence it.  I hammer and cut the objects that I was lured into admiring. These actions are violent and arduous, like Earth’s forces or

the ways that we are slowly destroying it.  Therefore, I find it difficult to partake in them and am limited in how far I am willing to go in order to manipulate wood’s integral qualities.  

Reconstructing the pieces allows me to honor and redeem having defiled them.  We collaborate through the mark-making and the response system taking place. I engage with their beauty, even while in broken fragments, to recreate forms.  I am part of the result, but the wood is an equal partner.

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