On April 25, 2017, my wife of 45 years, the desert writer Ann Woodin, passed away at 90. In these months after her death, I have continued our habit of solitary desert walks without her, now noticing how she often stopped to collect small seeds, grasses, flowers or plants, both to show me as well as bring them home for spontaneous bouquets.
Walking now alone, I began to emulate her meandering collections and soon found myself bringing larger sacks of dried plants, leaves and seed pods of the season to my studio. I spread my collections out onto sheets of heavy watercolor paper where I soak or spray the grasses, leaves and plants with acrylic colors in my large photo etching trays, as well as often imprinting them using my etching presses. As I print layer over layer in this way, each work becomes a surprising new invention, guided only by my response to the pseudo-accidents revealed by the desert’s natural forms.
While there may be no escaping ‘self’ in the end, I feel more like a collaborator in these new works, in which the natural intelligence that lives in the desert’s dried grasses, seeds and plants is the mark-maker instead of me, but is guided by the influence that my sixty years of art-making provides.