I recently came across Michel Foucault’s term heterotopia, meaning those places or spaces that are special, set aside from “normal” life, such as the honeymoon suite, or the colonies of the Puritans in America: places intended to engender a transformation or new beginning. His discussion is literally grounded: it seems he is always speaking of things built upon the earth: rooms in buildings, colonies in a new land. I am surprised when he shifts to the sea: “The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.” This intersection of land and vessel is something that occurs in my own work. I invoke both by combining “what belongs to the land” with the vessel form. For Foucault, “The boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea.” A cocoon afloat on the abyss; a boat upon the sea, or our earth floating in space, is a mysterious and powerful image.
The gothic cathedrals of Chester and York in Northern England inspired my Gothic Forest installation at the Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts on the campus of South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia, Washington, in March of this year. For me there is a link between the soaring columns and gothic arches in the cathedrals, and tree trunks and branches reaching up to the sky in a forest. What appeared to me initially to be impressive but austere Gothic architecture in the end seemed clearly to be an homage to the natural world, and a gateway to the spiritual. The sense of movement is an invitation to start a journey.