The untold story of the leaves

This week the City of Albany launched a publication “Albany Landmarks and Laneways”, which features some of the murals produced in 2016 for the PUBLIC program coordinated by FORM.

I have a story that if I don’t tell, might never be told.

Along with the mural artists that FORM engaged for the project, The City of Albany also engaged a number of local artists to produce ephemeral (not permanent) artworks.

2016 – image by Carol Duncan

I was selected as one of them, proposing to paste dried leaves onto a number of buildings, the Post Office, Pubic library and the Albany Advertiser. I worked for weeks collecting, drying and preparing leaves into patterns ready to paste to the walls.

At the start of the project as all mural artists arrived in Albany, we met at the Vancouver Arts Centre for a welcome and official launch of the project. I got to meet many creative and interesting people that night, memorably Stormie Mills. We got talking about the work we do and he asked what creative work I had planned for PUBLIC. Explaining the restrictions the local artists had, I told him of my dried leaf creative solution and how I had recognised leaves naturally gluing themselves to paths and buildings in autumn.

Our conversation ended and we moved off to talk to others at the gathering.

Some time later Stormie found me again and asked if I would like to collaborate on the mural he planned to do. Of course I said yes!

Stormie had talked to a friend from FORM after our first conversation, telling him what I was doing. That began a conversation about the novel by Richard Brautigan “So the wind wont blow it all away”.

As creative ideas will do, the novel, my dried leaves and Stormie’s idea for the mural formed into one.

He asked if I would be willing to add my leaves to his character, a pile in his open palms and blowing away along the wall. I was told to bring my leaves and we would work it out.

Next day after installing my work around York Street, I met Stormie in the ally way of his mural with my book of dried pressed leaves. I was a bit nervous!

We chatted, passers by interrupted to shake his hand, until the lift was ready then up into the air we went, Stormie in charge of the controls.

All of my other leaf paste ups had been achieved with thick water based wall paper glue but Stormie had a tin of Boncrete to make it more permanent.

Into the hand of his character I glued a number of leaves, then some of my best specimens were trailed away along the wall.

Then it was done, I was on the ground and off home.

Over time the leaves slowly succumbed to the weather and fell away. Now the open palms of his character hold nothing.

I made new works using the same inspiration as paper paste ups and installed under Stormie’s mural over the years since. These have also worn away, leaving no trace.

To me this is significant and is a perfect representation of the sentiments of “So the wind won’t blow it all away”, which I have since read and loved.

The image used in the publication “Albany Landmarks and Laneways” shows the mural as intended, leaves and all.

Stormie understood the significance of collaborating with a local artist. Generous and encouraging, he said my leaves would at least be there, even in spirit, longer than the ephemeral works. He was right.

“I had become so quiet and so small in the grass by the pond that I was barely noticeable, hardly there… I sat there watching their living room shining out of the dark beside the pond. It looked like a fairy-tale functioning happily in the post-World War II gothic of America before television crippled the imagination and turned people indoors and away from living out their own fantasies with dignity… Anyway, I just kept getting smaller and smaller beside the pond, more and more unnoticed in the darkening summer grass until I disappeared into the 32 years that have passed since then…”

Each chapter of the novel begins with the words “so the wind won’t blow it all away…Dust…American…Dust”.

Image – Theo

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