Snatches of Memory by Nan Burke
When I think of favorite places, I have snatches of memory to choose from: a sunset at a beach, several trees up on a ridge with a tinge of fall color, a mountain stream. As an artist, I abstract key elements, recreating and reinterpreting them in glass.
When viewers see my landscapes, they invariably speak of how it reminds them of their own special memories of vacation spots, backyards, or a beloved getaway. The landscapes have a sense of place, but the exact place depends on the viewer. With memory comes mood. I aim for my work to be both serene and uplifting. My trees in the falling snow are not firmly rooted; rather they “dance” in the moonlight.
I have choices of how I might depict my subject. Do I want to construct a piece that depicts an actual place that is identifiable by those who know it? Or do I want to abstract it so that more people relate to its composition? Generally, I go for the more abstract, minimalist approach to landscapes.
In an earlier career I studied human cognition and perception. I learned that how people see and remember things is not at all photographic, but is actually very conceptual. Objects are recognized by a few distinctive features or spatial relationships. These I abstract.
With my torch, I pull out strings of glass to ripple or bend as I like, and set them down on the base glass as trees, waves, or the crest of a hill. I use crushed glass called frit for leaves, and larger grades of crushed glass as rocks and even stone walls. For the sun or moon, I use dichroic glass that shifts in color depending on how the light hits it. For hills, I prefer a green “swoosh” with an upward bend, beckoning the viewer to climb up and join the trees there in memory.