Karen McRae – Winter Wrapped Trees






I was really excited last week to come across the blog of Canadian photographer Karen McRae. I had such a strong reaction to her images. These winter wrapped trees seemed so alone, bent and burdened, like they were waiting for something to change. There is also a sense of great strength and resilience, of pulling together. You can’t help but see the human and animal in them – condemned souls, or hard frozen mourners called to prayer.

On Karen’s blog, draw and shoot, you feel like you are there with her, in the moment, like you are being let into a secret. There are rushes of quiet, overwhelming beauty, dignity, elegance and strength – instantly compelling.

Karen was kind enough to share a few words with me about her work. I began by asking her what had first inspired her to pick up a camera..

 “I was about 8 years old. I remember the reason distinctly, remember taking the specific photographs, the emotions behind the camera. We were moving over 2000 km across the country. I was taking pictures of my friends, attempting to capture some memories in black and white. It was winter and the ground was snow covered. My parents had given me an old film camera and I immediately fell in love with it.

That was decades ago, and somewhere I still have those first images. My love of photography has never waned.”

You seem to have an eye for the quiet strength and beauty in your subjects – your pictures really seem to stop time, something I loved about them – would you say that you have always had this kind of eye?

“I suppose the images that I’m drawn to have a quietness to them. Often I like to isolate things to bring our their form and beauty, but I also like a bit of an edge to an image, something that makes you question what’s going on or evokes an emotional response. Sometimes colour or a simple form is enough.”

Can you tell me a little more about your wrapped trees? Are they a common sight where you live?

“The wrapped trees in particular really fascinated me. I first saw them in the fall stretching along a newly completed highway and, as they were young they were wrapped to protect them during their first winter. It’s not that uncommon to see wrapped trees in our area due to the harsh winter conditions. What struck me about these particular trees was how figurative they look. Perhaps I just look at things differently but I think it would be hard to go by these and not relate their stature to the figure. They way they were grouped together and related to each other spatially just added to the fascination. It seemed to me they were in conversation. I couldn’t not photograph them.

When I did go back to photograph them the first time I felt like there was a bit of majesty to them. Everything was sparkling from freezing rain and there seemed to be this quiet energy among them. In the winter the images were much more solemn, it was a grey shadowless day and they were literally weighed down by the weight of the weather. Burdened. And the raggedness of their cloaks brought out more character in them, the shapes changing with weather.”

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Cut Art

There are some amazing papercut artists around at the moment… here are some of my favourites…

Papercut by Hina Aoyama

I have only just discovered Hina Aoyama, a Japanese artist living in France, and am just amazed at her work. The cuts are so fine and delicate, all cut with a tiny pair of scissors. They exude a certain stillness around them when you look at them – a similar example of what I was talking about last week, how somehow, the energy present in the making of something seems to be retained in the thing itself once made. Here are a couple more..

"La Femme" Hina Aoyama

"Binpapi" by Hina Aoyama

"Avion" by Hina Aoyama

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Another artist that I particularly admire is Beatrice Coron. Beatrice is a French artist, living and working in New York. Much of her work is made from Tyvek, a synthetic material, but she also makes site specific work in other materials such as aluminium. Her work is very different, almost storytelling, picture book like. Dive in here.

Beatrice Coron

Dont you just love these little scenes? They are so lively and energetic.

Beatrice Coron

Beatrice was recently involved in an interesting project, to create a series of decorative arts in metal, rubber, acrylic, papercutting and paints commissioned by Blue Sea Development Company for “The Melody”, a cooperative development of apartments in the South Bronx. The works aim to celebrate the areas musical legacy.

The Melody, stairs decoration, Beatrice Coron

The Melody, 2011, metal decorative works by Beatrice Coron, 853 Macy Place, The Bronx, commissioned by Blue Sea Development.

"The Melody" 2011, metal work for fences and balconies, Beatrice Coron

Rubber Mats, "The Melody" Beatrice Coron

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My brother and his wife are due to have their second baby this month, and so I thought I might use these inspirations and try to make a gift for them. When their first little girl was born, I made a papercut for her, and so I thought I’d do the same again.

I made a papercut for my partners birthday last year, using the lyrics from the song “Forever Young”, which I think was originally written by Bob Dylan. I love the line “May your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung” and thought the words were a nice wish for a newborn baby..anyway so here is my effort – Please remember that I am just a beginner at this, and will never be as good as these people above…but I love experimenting! I’ve taken some photos along the way so you can see the stages. (You can see the pictures more clearly if you  click on them)

Stage one - drawing the template in reverse

Stage 2 - beginning to cut - I did the small feather details first before cutting out the bird, to keep the paper stable.

Stage 3 - getting there (shown here right way round) - the tension mounts, will I ruin it?!

The final picture!

Done! I may actually add her name and date of birth on the bottom when she is born..I hope that she will like it and be able to keep it throughout her life..

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