video documentation of:
Clothestile I
photographic transfer & dye on canvas
48" x 72"
2019

Me in the Park 1933
graphite, dye, collage & oil on canvas
36" x 60"
2019

Orange Palm Hearts
photographic transfer & dye on canvas
36” x 48”
2020

for Artists’ Television Access
© Suzie McMurtry 2020
Clothestile I. photographic transfer & dye on canvas 48″ x 72″ 2019
Clothestile I. photographic transfer & dye on canvas 48″ x 72″ 2019
Me in the Park 1933. graphite, dye, collage & oil on canvas 36″ x 60″ 2019
Me in the Park 1933. graphite, dye, collage & oil on canvas 36″ x 60″ 2019
Orange Palm Hearts. photographic transfer & dye on canvas 36” x 48” 2020
Orange Palm Hearts. photographic transfer & dye on canvas 36” x 48” 2020
This series of three canvases includes depictions of my grandmother in San Francisco in 1933, e-commerce style images of clothing I made or altered, and photographs of palm trees in front of my current home in the East Bay. In this video, footage from around the area is projected onto these paintings. The dye used here is not plant-derived, but the impetus for this particular rumination on family history, memory, ecology, and settlement in California was one invasive tree, whose leaves produce a bright orange dye.
In the 1950s my grandmother planted a Eucalyptus cinerea, or Silver Dollar Gum, for this purpose. This single act, done almost exactly a century after a similar species was first turned loose in the Bay Area by colonizers who somehow thought it would make good lumber, feels different: isolated. Since she first told me that this tree near her driveway had a unique use, I have been harvesting leaves every few months to dye wool. 

The revelation of the orange dye-producing tree coincided with our unearthing of a family loom from the basement about 50 yards away. Although the present pandemic has slowed my ability to weave on that loom in my grandparents’ living space, this extracting, dyeing, projecting and processing of photographs has been a way of asking: what should be done with the physical products of our ancestors’ decisions? These things are not static nor disconnected from larger systems, though they may feel that way to the individual. I’m reminded of this at least every few months when I harvest leaves for another dye bath; the spot on the trunk I’ve taken from has always at least doubled in new growth.
How do you relate your family history to larger arcs of colonization?
How does the flora of a place influence the way you think about your time there?

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August 21st, 2020 addition:

Much of the land in this footage has burned in the SCU Lightning Complex Fires. [I was told by my uncle that] certain native plants that have been dormant for decades underneath invasive grasses, can grow again after a fire when those grasses are burned away.
for Artists’ Television Access
© Suzie McMurtry 2020
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