written by Ruth Ann Pszwaro
We should preserve our silent sanctuaries, for in them we perpetuate the eternal perspective.
~Sigurd F. Olson
A New Perspective
How many of us have experienced a new perspective during the last year and a half? The global pandemic has, for many who I know at least, provided time for both major and minor reassessments of everything from vocation to values. Fill in your own blank. We all know that COVID-19 has exposed deficiencies in relationships, organizations, and ourselves. And, it has also, at times, brought out our best selves and allowed us to reset.
Achieving Balance in our Culture
For Natalie Salminen Rude, the current exhibiting artist at Fika, the recognition of an interstice, a liminal space in which to re-evaluate current identities and responsibilities, came just before the Shut Down when she felt the need to stop the treadmill. The store she opened in 2017, Studio Haiku, was going well on the outside, but the demands of being a shop owner, artist, educator, parent, foster parent, along with maintaining social media and an Etsy shop and reprint business, needless to say, began to weigh heavy. The decision to close the store was a hard but necessary one. As Salminen Rude says, “in our search for that work/life balance, I realized balance will always require a lot of navigation and continual energy. And saying no to good things might just be a part of achieving that balance, counter to our culture saying we can have it all, that we just need to figure out how to balance it all.”
A Relatable Story
Salminen Rude was looking for more expansive space and a chance to live out her core values that were still there, but simply shelved as she found herself serving the technological tools that were supposed to serve her and her work. Ever been there? Email? Instagram? Facebook? How many new emails do you have in your inbox right now that you feel a desperation to answer? This is a relatable story and there are choices presented to all of us when we shift perspective.
Perspective vs. Perception
There is, however, a necessary distinction between perspective and perception. Perspective has an exacting quality, one that allows artists to draw the correct impression of height, width, and depth in order to accurately portray something. And, we’ve certainly learned in this last several years, that it is challenging on a social and political level to discuss various perspectives, albeit essential to our democracy. So while perspective is critical to her work, what Salminen Rude wanted to focus on with this body of work was Perception: that which has to do with an intuitive or direct recognition of some innate quality. As she re-evaluated her perspective on how her life was unfolding, she was drawn to observe and experience a freshness of perception that held a kid-like lightness to it, a deep innocence that invited her to observe the intrinsic characteristics of a thing, and an invitation to delve into something not only to survive or check it off the list, but to live well. In her own words, she desired to make her life a “radical act of availability.”
A Thoughtful Purpose
A fan of the French sociologist and philosopher, Jacques Ellul, Salminen Rude dug deep into his writings and acquired a language for many of the things she’d been wrestling with in a digitally-sacred, data-driven world. Particularly illuminating was Ellul’s concept of “non-power” not defined as powerlessness, but in Salminen Rude’s words, “as having power to do many things but choosing to lay down some of those very things in order to achieve balance and to hone in more thoughtfully on our purpose.” Her resolve for a new way of moving and being began to focus into the need to make original artwork again.
And what incredible work she has made! Weaving between the poetic, philosophical, and visual, having worked as a canoe guide in the boundary waters, Salminen Rude drew on the writings of local environmentalist Sigurd F. Olson. Each of her encaustic pieces is paired with a quote from the Bourgeois’ work.
As I began painting again this spring after a year’s pause, focusing on the hope and power of the wilderness seemed like the most beautiful and humane subject matter on which to concentrate. Within our current culture’s techno-pandemic mindset, I longed for the wisdom of Sigurd Olson to imbue the work with a benediction for the viewer...Our necessity for wilderness and quiet is essential for the human spirit to flourish right now...the BWCA is a place we come to rehumanize in a dehumanizing world.
What is Encaustic?
For those of you not familiar with the medium of encaustic, the ancient technique of using beeswax and tree sap to paint dates back to 800 B.C., when the hulls of Greek ships were painted with this method: enkaustikos. Today, encaustic medium is made of beeswax, damar resin, and pigment, and layers of it are fused together with the use of a heat gun or blowtorch. Salminen Rude, a student of both painting and ceramics, found her place with encaustics out of a love for the physicality and “reductionist energy of carving and scraping that is possible in clay,” combined with the color she could achieve in painting.
Just as she honors the stratification and multiple layers of humanity and nature, her work reflects this same superlatticed reality, weaving together layers of encaustic with mixed media, collage elements, and poetic text.
The concept of painting in layers seemed to lend itself to the unfolding of what would be very intrinsic to my work, which is the idea of layers and the subsequent layers of meaning. There was a physical manifestation of this intellectual idea that was constantly at play in my mind. And because of the incredibly flexible nature of encaustic, really any means or mode of expression was possible.
Depths to the Work
Because the physical properties of beeswax reflect light, there are depths to her visual work that help the viewer to linger in the poetic composition. One of her pieces is entitled, Long Thoughts, and is paired to Olson’s quote including the same phrase. The piece and Olson’s words remind us that as long as there are places yet where we can still glimpse the unknown, we will be drawn to these wilderness areas. And in visiting them, we will “wonder and dream and think long thoughts.”
Thank you Natalie, for sharing your work with our community, for creating space for long thoughts, and for encouraging us all to search for a freshness of perception.
You can learn more about Natalie and her work by visiting www.nataliesalminen.com or stop in to Fika where her work is available to purchase.
If you're inspired by this blog and Ruth Ann's writing, we recommend checkout out our blog post Cultivating Beauty Through our Work.