During the doldrums of last winter, Door County artists Wendy Carpenter and Daryl Asbury devised a plan to create art together and to use their artwork for the enrichment of the environment.
Carpenter and Asbury looked to the form, groupings, and human-like qualities of the native Door County cedar tree for their show, “Cedars of Door County,” which opens July 12 at Interfibers Design Gallery in Fish Creek.
As a means to promote tree planting and preservation, and in conjunction with the town of Gibraltar’s 150th Anniversary, Interfibers Design Gallery plans to sell cedar trees in three-inch pots for $7.50 at the “Cedars of Door County” art reception. Asbury and Carpenter are working with the town and will donate tree sale proceeds to the Gibraltar Parks and Lands Committee for use in town parks.
Artwork in the show is a mix of Asbury’s oil-on-hardwood paintings of cedar trees and Carpenter’s three-dimensional coiled fiber sculptures of cedars. Carpenter is using only three colors of wool yarn – olive, sandalwood, and a tweedy, coffee-colored yarn.
“I’ve had some of this yarn for 10 years, knowing I would someday use it on a project that involved trees,” Carpenter said. “This wool has specks that remind me of bark.”
Carpenter’s sculptures incorporate cedar tree branches she encountered and collected on hikes to Cave Point County Park, Sunset Beach in Fish Creek and on a tree farm across the street from her home. Each is attached to a wool yarn-covered steel hoop. The sculptures depict the twisted, gnarled cedar growth and the movement repeatedly found in the trees’ spiraling shallow root systems.
“Daryl loves painting trees, and was intrigued with (cedars) as soon as he moved here,” Carpenter said. “The cedar trees I like the best are the ones that are half-dead growing out of the rocks. I like to use branches that look like a tractor ran over them, or larger branches that have more interesting bark.”
Before agreeing on an art show that centered on cedar trees, Asbury and Carpenter discussed caves, liturgical themes and finally settled on the tree form.
Asbury used his paint-by-memory techniques for the paintings in the show, rather than copy images from a photograph. He said his paintings are more impressions of what he sees than needle-by-needle and texture-by-texture reproductions.
“I have an ability to remember things, without a photograph, and paint them,” Asbury said. “I paint the way something feels. It’s like the aria of an opera, the air surrounding something.
“I like to focus on the feelings you get from something, not just make a regurgitated image.”
The use of sandpaper, steel wool and sharp edges gives Asbury’s paintings a depth that does not come from using oil paint alone. This “sand painting” gives his landscapes an edge, Asbury said.
“I go back into areas after putting on sometimes as many as 25 layers of paint, and pull certain areas out,” Asbury said. “That’s distance to me. It’s what makes 3-D happen. It might take me 10 minutes to put the base layer of a painting down onto the board, but then it takes days and days and days to finish the painting and give it depth.”
Before finalizing plans with the town of Gibraltar for the tree sale, Carpenter said she contacted several other county organizations to partner with them, to no avail. When she received an email from Wayne Kudick about the town’s sesquicentennial anniversary, she contacted him about her and Asbury’s cedar-themed show idea.
Kudick said the pairing of the cedar art show and the town’s 150th anniversary was a natural parallel to the town’s logging history.
“The Claflin family settled here to use the trees in their business,” Kudick said. “If you look at the first photos of Fish Creek, the town was basically barren because the trees had been logged.
“Now here’s someone from the art community who’s saying that the trees are part of the atmosphere of the Fish Creek community. To do a fundraiser and provide funds to enhance the Fish Creek park, that helps us honor the Welcker family and preserve the park in a natural state. The combination of the art community, the government community and a charitable gift to the community shows great appreciation.”
Carpenter and Asbury are using Evergreen Nursery in Sturgeon Bay as the local source of trees for the tree sale.
A public reception for “Cedars of Door County” is scheduled for Saturday, July 12, from 4 – 7 pm at Interfibers Design Gallery, on County F in Fish Creek. For more information, visit http://www.interfibers.com, or call 920.868.3580.