Dendritic Horizon, Catalogue Essay
Rachael Pease’s love of the landscape is a recurring theme. It is rooted deeply in her background. She grew up in rural Indiana. Her family lived very close to the food chain. Even when she was very young she felt an awareness of life and death that surrounds our way of living-- memories of how easy it was to break a bone or injure oneself; seeing animals born and also burying them; chickens being fed and then killed for eating; structures falling apart in an advanced state of dilapidation; and then new buildings being constructed and new life on it’s way. Rachael is constantly building a large memory of things and places from her past and from the present.
In Rachael’s drawings the historical and the poetic are an accumulation of the grandeur of Nature. She works both intuitively and conceptually allowing her materials to play an important role in the making of images. Ink is poured on a variety of non - porous papers; water is added; trees and roots and land are drawn, and then are wiped away; more landscape is drawn and more ink is poured-- a process that allows for immediate destruction and also creates new images simultaneously. Rachael does not work haphazardly, but rather logically. Artists learn through the years how to manipulate the intricacies of our materials. Each picture is an invented, eccentric and specific place. The varied textures of the drawing marks echo remarkably the feel of the rough, the smooth, the gnarled, the twisted, the sense of mystery that emphasizes the world of nature that lies around us. There is a tension between the emerging and the disappearing or, even better, a landscape that seems to keep emerging and re-emerging into an elaborate extravagant being. You feel Rachael’s landscapes are painted branch by twisted branch until a certain harmony comes into view. The darks and lights of the ink create a lively view of undergrowth, fallen trees and difficult paths—not an easy read and not an easy hike, but an adventure is never easy. New discovery comes out of difficulty, danger and challenge. These are important qualities that appear in her work. Her attempt to define specific conditions of nature leads to this expressiveness, which is quite original. Nothing is overlooked in the brooding world her work embodies.
ART, whether it is the visual arts or music or poetry, needs no explanation. The artist spends a lifetime studying and exploring to present images that awe and inspire. ART demands openness so one can make one’s own connection with it. Rachael often talks about her love of poetry and how it seems very close to how she thinks. Baudelaire writes in Correspondences: “scents, colours and sounds respond to one another”, in Robert Schumann’s Waldszenen, OP.82, you are taken into the woods and have a multitude of experiences: entering the real forest, losing one’s way and then experiencing the magic and the unknown of the landscape. All the ARTS make references to one another, and they all seem to create images with the help of one another. Rachael pulls you between the earthly and the ungodly. This body of work is very emotionally charged. The viewer’s imagination receives the imagery and views it like listening to music, reading poetry and leaves you with something beyond the initial looking. The American landscape is often presented a heroic. Rachael Pease carries on this pilgrimage to show nature in its wild excitement coupled with an intricate grandeur. Her creative exploration, simply said, is provocatively beautiful.
Professor emeritus, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Metamorphosis, Catalogue Essay
Trees, so essential to life, have accumulated rich symbolism over the millennia. The Tree of Life is a symbol used in religions around the world. The Greek god Adonis was born form a tree. The Old Testament has explained humanity’s present state as caused by Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge against God’s will, while Christ is viewed in Christian dogma as the fruit of the Tree of Life. We describe our generational relationships within a family tree.
As landscapes became an important subject for painters in the 17th century, some artists, including Jacob van Ruisdael celebrated the strength and nobility of specific trees in their paintings. In the 19th century trees were a favorite subject of the Barbizon painter Theodore Rousseau. From Samuel Palmer to Vincent van Gogh and Gustav Klimt, trees were essential topics, and remained so among artists to the present day.
Rachael Pease is unusual among contemporary artists for her involvement with trees, however, she has made them her subject in a manner that combines rigorous documentation with intuitive romantic sensibilities. Her magical ability to render the tangle and texture of roots, branches and the minutia of leaves is simply breathtaking. Her ability to convey both the vitality of growth and the natural cycle of decay has opened up a new window into the mystery and fascination that trees will always have. Sensitive to her place, her time, knowing that the world changes and hoping that trees will remain, she has taken to documenting specific trees. She has learned their history and records their location, their age and their background. Her Intimate Twilight lovingly describes the whole system, trunk, branches, leaves and roots of a fig now nearly one hundred and fifty years old. Exquisitely composed within a tondo, the tree is both specific and universal- a tree of life with a long history and we hope a long future. Cathedral Fig celebrates an even older specimen, planted in 1875 to commemorate the birth of a first son and to honor a wife. Long after they have departed, the tree thrives, becoming more admirable and fascinating with each passing year.
Timeless visual contexts and devices (tondos, arch topped rectangles, ovals, symmetry, graphite) are perfectly attuned to the eternal and universal attraction and interest that Rachel’s fig trees provide. Her brilliant use of scale, of space, of light, of texture and her intuitive affinity for her subject, which she describes with the combined skills of a botanist, a super realist, a romantic, and a draftsman of almost superhuman abilities, make Rachel Pease’s images of trees instant classics that have established their place within the cannon of great art.
Adelheid M. Gealt
Director Emerita, Indiana University Art Museum
Professor, History of Art,Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts,