Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Our Lady of the Wood

Detail of the assemblage "Our Lady of the Wood" - 1976 Dia Sobin

"...Now the stark elders have an anorexic look; there is not much in the autumn wood to make you smile but it is not yet, not quite yet, the saddest time of the year. Only, there is a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being; the year, in turning, turns in on itself. Introspective weather, a sickroom hush.

The woods enclose. You step between the first trees and then you are no longer in the open air; the wood swallows you up. There is no way through the wood any more, this wood has reverted to its original privacy. Once you are inside it, you must stay there until it lets you out again for there is no clue to guide you through in perfect safety; grass grew over the track years ago and now the rabbits and the foxes make their own runs in the subtle labyrinth and nobody comes. The trees stir with a noise like taffeta skirts of women who have lost themselves in the woods and hunt round hopelessly for the way out. Tumbling crows play tag in the branches of the elms they clotted with their nests, now and then raucously cawing. A little stream with soft margins of marsh runs through the wood but it has grown sullen with the time of the year; the silent, blackish water thickens, now, to ice. All will fall still, all lapse...

The woods enclose and then enclose again, like a system of Chinese boxes opening one into another; the intimate perspectives of the wood changed endlessly around the interloper, the imaginary traveller walking towards an invented distance that perpetually receded before me. lt is easy to lose yourself in these woods."

- excerpt from the The Erl-King, a short story by Angela Carter * - from The Bloody Chamber and other Stories - 1981, Penguin Books

Detail of the assemblage "Our Lady of the Wood" - 1976 Dia Sobin

Detail of the assemblage "Our Lady of the Wood" - 1976 Dia Sobin


In the continuing saga of The Forest (see Phoebe post), we arrive at "Our Lady of the Wood", an assemblage (or "collage", as they were once referred to) I painstakingly put together in the 1970's when I was just starting out on my fool's journey.

I had it hanging on my bedroom wall for years... (I now think) to remind myself just where I had "come" from. But, I didn't remember, of course, until I was in the process of taking it down... ostensibly to pack up in the event I relocate anytime soon. (This remains to be seen). For whatever reason, it slipped out of its frame, and so I thought I might scan some of it into this machine as a kind of punctuation mark to the general drift these days... that old black magic sort of drift which Angela Carter (see quote above) seemed to know so well.

"Our Lady of the Wood" was fashioned with all sorts of pretty things... beads and fabrics and hand-made paper... photographs of a favorite graveyard statue... and lots of organic material (the sort of stuff I like to "live-scan" now). You might say I'm still making assemblages, only now they're all digital. At least for the moment... but, really, I could never be fully content with 2 dimensions - I want to work with all of them! ;-)

In any case, have a thoroughly haunting October - I know I will!  And, while you're at, stop on by Histories of Things To Come - ToB does Halloween countdowns (oh) so well!

Our Lady of the Wood - 8X10 Xerox of the 15X20 original
(click on to enlarge)

* Note on Angela Carter. For those unfamiliar with this feminist author, she wrote the 1969 cult Sc-Fi classic Heroes & Villains, which is on my personal top ten list of transformational fiction.


  1. Beautiful detail of your work, Dia. It would be great to see the whole piece! Having been out in the woods and countryside a lot over the past week or so, I would say that the mood is not forlorn but insanely busy - everywhere, every species rushing to get ready for winter. There's a sense that it will come earlier this year.

    1. Thanks, ToB. Re: entire collage - too large to scan in its entirety and I only have slides (which my scanner won't accommodate).
      Re: Carter's excerpt... well, she was never known for a sunny outlook. I think the line, "The woods enclose and then enclose again, like a system of Chinese boxes opening one into another" is the one which particularly resonated with me. My backyard is literally forested land and a large part of my personal history. That I've been in the process of selling it, and all the harrowing details this entails... well, I think you catch my drift.
      Re: winter coming earlier this year... yeah, well, it would, wouldn't it? ;-)

  2. Wow....so very cool! I love that you've now scanned the work and can take it forward into where you are now.

    And I echo the sentiment that it'd be great to be able to see the work in its entirety...perhaps a post down the road.

    1. Well, I did find an old color xerox, so, if you can factor in the poor quality image, here is the full piece.

      Personally, I kind of like just the details better. On the other hand, it's the sort of old stuff artists are advised to throw out... I have an emotional attachment to the things I did in that year, however. You might say this was my symbolist period... and I probably am still a symbolist in way - it's just that the symbols have changed. ;-)