We asked Sally to share her thoughts and process on being an environmental artist. Her connection to nature and the magic within is captivating. ~ Amber Lotus
When meeting new people in social settings, the inevitable question arises: “And what do you do?”
When this is asked of me there is often a long pause. The question hangs in the air. The querist leans in expectantly, waiting for me to fill in the void between us. Always a quick calculation has to be made: be vague and simplistic – “I’m an artist” – or more specific – “I’m an environmental artist.” But if the moment is right for either a shock or a smile, I will say, “I build Faerie houses for a living!” and wait for that idea to settle in.
Sometimes it never lands upright. Other times the eyes widen and light up as the listener’s Inner Child hears the invitation to come out and play. For me, that is what it is all about: finding a way in, past the artificial boundaries and obstacles that living in the modern world seems to erect in all our psyches and that keep us from staying connected to the experience of Wonder and Magic that we all knew intuitively and intimately when we were young.
This is where I live. With one foot in the “real” and practical world of “stuff”/matter (along with all of the joys and responsibilities that world entails) and the other foot deeply placed in what some call the Invisible world: the world of dreams, imagination, and pure potential at all levels.
Physicists often use the terms “implicate order” and “explicate order,” coined by David Bohm to describe these two states of being. They are a highly useful and elegant way of modeling the Universe. I’m not a physicist, but these concepts make sense to me as an artist because in my experience inspiration does seem to come from an invisible source “somewhere” outside of this world yet is somehow connected to it. It enters the human awareness field through a mystical process. Then as an artist, I get to apply my skills and tools to my medium of choice. Once the process is complete, something unique, which did not exist before, emerges and is now here in form.
The work itself is slow, methodical, and requires a ton of patience and perseverance to accomplish. Materials are gathered from nature, mostly from the forests and meadows near my home in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York State.
Some sculptures (I call all of my houses “sculptures”) are made directly on-site with materials I have gathered from the immediate vicinity. The piece called The Shire House is a good example of this kind of structure. All the stones, twigs, branches, etc. that went into making this house were sourced from an area within a few yards of where the piece was made.
Other creations are put together over the course of several weeks in my studio and brought to a special location where I know they will shine. The Adirondack Faerie Lodge on is an example of this sort of sculpture. In this case, the whole house, with its stone foundation (all 20 pounds of it!) was placed in a tote bag and hauled up a narrow trail on Little Crow Mountain to capture the beautiful light at the summit.
Every piece has a story. There is Magic entwined in each creation, either from the way I discovered the materials or in the way a location was revealed to me, or perhaps in the way a shaft of sunlight suddenly burst through the tree canopy to illuminate the piece just as I was ready to snap the photo. It is my desire to try and bring a bit of that Magic to you so you can be as enchanted as I was when the piece was completed and the photos were taken.
Working closely with Nature is both awe-inspiring and humbling. The Soul soars and the body sings when it is touched by the beauty of Nature. Yet the body complains and the Soul seems to flee when fatigue, cold, or biting insects take over! But the environmental artist’s job is to push past these limitations whenever possible and to discover new ways to celebrate what we all know in our hearts: that the Earth is a glorious and magical place to live and it deserves our care and protection.
If my work can bring people through a back door via whimsy and innocence into a place of realigning with the Earth and inspiring them to find new ways to honor and respect what is given to us while we are here, then all the struggle to make the work will have been worth it.
Sally J. Smith was a professional watercolor artist and children’s book illustrator for more than 20 years before turning her talents to environmental sculptures. Her faerie houses and “Eartherials” echo the beauty of a special place or moment in time. Smith creates a visual record of a piece at its completion, and whenever possible, after the sculpture is photographed, it is left where it was made for the nature spirits to enjoy. She lives in the Adirondacks, where resources for her magical creations abound. For more information, please visit her website.
Special 2-Day Sale
50% off Faerie Houses, Environmental Art, and Land Art 2016 wall calendars
Sale ends 10:00 p.m. (PT), Saturday, September 12. No coupon code required.