An Artist's Quest

The Presence of Absence Revisted


Buttercup prints

I went for a hike along the trails here at The Bishop’s Ranch yesterday morning. The sun was bright and warm, tempered by a brisk spring wind. As I walked through the heirloom apple orchard the nearly century old trees, twisted and bedraggled with dead branches, persisted in blooming, they resist the urge each year to give in to winter and choose instead, with what energy they have, to embrace spring. Thanks to the abundant winter rains this year the trees are surrounded by carpet of green dotted with delicate, bright yellow buttercups. As I bent down to pick a few a sweet memory flooded through – forty-five years or more ago I bent to pick these same buttercups. That day I stood in a meadow with my sister. The meadow had a little creek that ran through it and housed two fat ponies and a burro. While they grazed idly by we picked buttercups. We picked buttercups not by the handful but by the armful. We truly filled buckets with buttercups to bring to the house. We filled every nook and cranny with buttercup bouquets.

negitive and ghost -buttercups

Left is the negative space print from around the buttercups on the right is the ghost print

Yesterday I brought my bundle of buttercups to my studio. I am preparing for a mixed media nature journaling class I’m teaching in May here at the Ranch (class info). I have been experimenting with printing organic objects. So I inked up my printing plate and placed my buttercups down, laid the paper on and rubbed. When the print is lifted what showed is the negative space around the buttercup. Then I gently peeled up the buttercups and made what is called a ghost print of what was left behind under the buttercups. I found these negative space prints and their ghosts to contain a simple quiet beauty and while I was making them I began to think of my father who passed away last fall. I have been working on a slide show for the celebration of life we are having for him next weekend. While I have done the best to find images of him throughout is life from birth to death, to somehow encapsulate who he was in one slide show, I know is folly. There are gaps of course, missing pieces things he loved not captured in film, people whom he loved and loved him not pictured. The gaps and missing pieces in this slide show are like the negative space buttercup prints- they depict the presence of absence the space around the life. And like the ghost prints it is just a whisper of the vibrant life he led. I am grateful that his memory comes to me in many ways through photos and celebrations, and quiet buttercup prints reminding me to leave space for the presence of absence.


5 responses

  1. Laura Thorpe

    I love this post, Lisa, on many levels. It of course reminds me of the daffodil gathering days we shared long ago — and also resonates with me in how to fully celebrate a life and influence and presence that we have loved and lost. Thanks for putting that all in your inimitable word and images! xo

    March 31, 2017 at 10:55 am

  2. A Threshold Choir Singer

    Your words are as artful as your visuals, Lisa. Your final sentences in this post could/should/might be incorporated into a spoken eulogy! The presence of absence is a concept worthy of reflection. For myself, I shall “ponder a poem.”

    March 31, 2017 at 11:34 am

  3. Valerie Hill

    These are beautiful.

    March 31, 2017 at 11:57 am

  4. Pamela

    As always, you have lead my day in a new direction.
    Thank you

    March 31, 2017 at 12:11 pm

  5. Molly Pannkuk

    I loved following you back into your childhood memories of an afternoon well spent with your sister and the captured sunlight of buttercups. And now you move forward, with hollow places and full ones laid out before you. Thank you for sharing the beauty you have found. As always, your words and images expand in my heart.

    March 31, 2017 at 6:56 pm

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