Fraser: Artist finds inspiration in nature – literally
February 15, 2008
Man vs. nature – it’s an old battle that many have fought. Sometimes, the best strategy is not to fight at all. For artist Brock McCormick, his canvases develop by being part of, not in a battle against, the natural order.
As an ecologist he views “landscapes as processes, driven by natural forces.” As a person, he views landscapes as something to be experienced. As an artist, he believes landscapes can be redefined into an experience.
“All of these perspectives are incorporated into my work,” he said, “which explores my relationship with landscape.”
The artist expresses his respect for nature through his work on display at the Fraser Valley Library. An artist reception is scheduled next Thursday in his honor and to showcase the collection. The show, which encompasses almost a dozen pieces, will be his first in several years and his debut in Grand County. He’ll also showcase about 25 more during a slideshow presentation at the reception.
Believing that creativity is innate in all people as long as it is encouraged, McCormick said he was lucky to grow up in a family that had “very open hearts and minds” and that he has had a passion for art as long as he can remember.
The Tabernash family man was presented with an Alpine ArtAffair scholarship and went to Prescott College to pursue degrees in fine art and ecology, graduating in 2002. When he’s not spending time with the family or putting an art piece together, he is a field biologist for the U.S. Forest Service.
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His study of ecology, he admits, has become the main topic for most of his work.
“For me, I imagine creating art without my background in ecology would be like trying to write a book and not having anything to say,” he said.
McCormick said his pieces rely on nature “as a true collaborator.” As he walks through life, he takes in the shapes and textures of everything and discovers meaning in almost every object he finds to incorporate into his work.
Found metal, he points out, is a symbol of industry.
“While rust demonstrates the resilience of nature, the passage of time, and the beauty of change,” he said, “rusted metal is a point where man and nature meet.”
He especially likes the textures and coloration of rusted metal and started applying oil pastels onto the medium. That step led McCormick into making lanterns using candlelight to show the texture and color of his work in a new way.
Usually, his pieces depend on the objects he finds; other times he has something in mind before he starts the search for materials. One of the hardest parts of his creative process “is knowing when to stop and let the objects speak for themselves.” He feels his role as an artist “is to not interfere.”
The multimedia nature of his work allows him to explore a world of material opportunities, with work that may include metal, wood, clay, concrete, paint and “a variety of techniques from basket weaving to primitive fire ceramics.”
Most of the final products are three-dimensional and draw the eye into them. Some McCormick frames himself, others don’t need framing.
McCormick said he admires artists “that can internalize a landscape,” listing Georgia O’Keeffe as an artist he admires.
Other inspirations come from impressionists and classical modernists, the photographs of Robert ParkeHarrison, the work of Andy Goldsworthy, the National Audubon Society’s classic natural history paintings, and pre-Columbian art. He also pays homage to Roseanne Cartledge, his college mentor and friend, who he said helped him mature as an artist.
McCormick hopes his upcoming show will “inspire others to develop and strengthen their personal relationships with the natural world. We are all connected to the landscape in many complicated and beautiful ways. Landscapes define and sustain us.
“I hope to encourage others to strengthen their relationships with the natural world and maybe develop an appreciation for the beauty of life within a natural system.”