Nature has been the top inspiration behind man’s first artistic expressions. In fact, no amount of frames and canvases and words can profoundly capture the immense beauty of nature, and it’s the kind that would still exist regardless of humans. Take it from the great Romantic poets.
In fact, local artists in Charlotte are reviving this Romanticism, manifested in their handcrafted products. These local artists are bringing back the ancient tradition of creating natural dyes for fabrics using plants and materials present in their area, and the results are remarkable.
Local artist Jacqueline Maloney writes that her artistic process is healthiest when it is “almost seamlessly folded into my daily life.” Maloney utilizes inks derived from foraged black walnut hulls, dandelions, and other materials to complete a one-of-a-kind collection of art pieces.
With these homegrown artists, the artistic process does not only begin upon stepping before a blank canvas, it begins with a walk in the garden or the woods to forage for herbs, wildflowers and other natural materials. It then continues to that part of day where they tend a fire to boil herbs, roots and hulls into a concentrated concoction to create rich paints and dyes.
The process is unique in its own, an artistic expression infused with a strong personal experience with the surroundings. Nature lives on in the artworks. This is also evident in the fabrics made by Lindsey Warf and Kelly Gaskill, two local artists who dedicate their talent and time to make chemical-free products by creating rich palettes of colors and dyes extracted from the most basic plants and herbs, such as carrots, cabbage, onions and madder roots. Gaskill writes, “We’re living in a throw-away culture versus a culture where my whole village, my sheep, my plants, my work went to make this fabric, [and for] that I cherish it.”
Apart from the varied colors and sceneries, there is something enchanting about the natural world that tugs at the heartstrings and brings about profound thoughts that we can only express through art. Painting a landscape of a lake surrounded by greenery and wildflowers, for example, is not just an effort to capture the right blend and temperature or the realism of reflections on the surface of the lake.
The artist, as John Keats once said, has to (metaphorically) dive into the lake and luxuriate in the sensation of water and to take part in the mystery of nature. The creation of art is almost similar with experiencing nature; it emboldens the soul and requires an understanding through the senses.
Mimicking the philosophies of the Romantic period, Maloney, Warf, Gaskill and other local artists in North Carolina strive to use their art to express and support the environmental agenda. Maloney has this to say:
“I am seeking and learning ways to surrender more deeply to the task of respecting the environment [that] supports my existence, learning about all the life around me, honoring it by finding ways to describe it to others.”
There’s nothing more organic than making art from organic materials. What these local artists are doing is more than just making pretty wall art and home décor. It is their call to action, to inspire people to become better stewards of the earth.