Peter is my catholic confirmation name, or en francais, Pierre. While my female classmates chose more traditional saint names like Mary or Theresa, I had to add a dash of creativity to the catechism mix. If Jesus built his church on the rock of Saint Peter, I argued, it was certainly a name strong enough for me.
Pierre also means ‘stone’ in French. Maybe that is why I picked it. Could I have known then that I simply wanted my spiritual name to reflect the deep connection I have with rocks?
At about the same age, my daughter, Zsofi, had an equally creative wish, not focused on a spiritual graduation, but the much more secular version of high school commencement. Zsofi requested a trip to Peru as her graduation gift. Nothing could have made this wanderlust mama prouder!
What I did not realize at the time was that Peru would unearth my love of stone in the most remarkable ways.
Massive tectonic shifts and a healthy dose of volcanic rumbling creates some of the most amazing landscapes for this artist. Welcome to the Andes!
With over 50 hours of Peruvian bus time logged, my nose spent most of it pressed against the window. Every mountain pass brought a new and wildly fresh vista for my eyes to feast.
While I’ve always been an avid road trip gazer (will not sleep in a car!), I traveled through the Altiplano with a newly acquired knowledge and pure fascination of earth pigments.
One year ago, I bumped into an incredible creative philosopher and professed mineral pigment worker, or whisperer as I prefer to think of her. Heidi Gustafson has dedicated her practice to honor the sacred mineral of iron oxide and her earth pigment sister of ochre. I became increasingly intrigued by her work and thrilled to learn that she lived less than 2 hours away in the great PNW. When Heidi offered a mineral foraging workshop on Whidbey Island, I jumped at the chance to walk the beach with her to learn how to extract color from yet another one of earth’s natural resources.
What I learned that day would be exactly what I needed to begin my first solo quest for earth pigments in Peru.
Pack it out
Installation has become an integral part of my global travel. Weeks prior to launch, I am feverishly gathering, testing and building materials to create installation while on the road. With only a backpack and my daughters by my side for our time in Peru, I chose to re-imagine how I would express my creativity on this treasured trip.
As if by magic, a new conceptual plan emerged in the right side of my brain: installation vs. extraction. I would explore Peru’s landscape with an open heart, seeking balance of giving and receiving - installing and extracting - the earth as my guide.
In my veins
Pigments on my mind, I chose to install predominantly paper pulp pieces painted in minerals sourced from other regions north of the equator. With a newly opened eye to identify minerals that had the potential of sharing color, I discovered many places where I could make an installation ‘offering’ as gratitude for the rocks the earth presented to me.
What I didn’t expect was the obsession with which I would seek out color in the rocks of Peru. In many ways, I suppose traveling by bus was a perfect way to curb my enthusiasm, or at least keep me from stopping at every curve in the road to hunt pigment. Perhaps it gave me the reflective time I needed to practice simply sensing the rifts where color might be ready to mingle with an artist.
From the ancient seabed of Paracas to the pinnacle of Vinicunca, the rocky soil gave me yet another incredible palette to sprinkle into my artwork. The handful of stones I will lovingly grind in the following months will be cherished not only for the subtle colors they will reveal, but also the memories I was lucky enough to forge with my daughters in Peru.
Rock ‘n roll
So, yes, I love all things stone, and I have for a very long time. My grandfather had an incredible rock collection that mesmerized me with their crystalized innards or smoothly polished surfaces. My best friend, Maggie, recently reminded me of a garnet hunting expedition we took as kids. Time at the beach often involves taking close up photographs of the pebbles beneath my feet as opposed to the crashing waves. I even named my son in honor of stone: Mason.
However, if I’m being totally honest, my catechism name was only coincidentally connected to rocks. Admitting my name inspiration may have come from a crush I had on the guitarist Pete Townsend of The Who, I’m fairly certain the clergy would not have approved. Still, it is fun to think I may have a higher calling to be grounded in the world of stone.
Tell me: Do stones rock your world?