Throwing Shadows Like An Octopus
THROWING SHADOWS LIKE AN OCTOPUS
This project was inspired by the Mojave Desert and a fascination with camouflage. It consists of wallpaper and small sculptures; the custom-designed patterns on paper and fabric originate from images of desert plant life, such as mistletoe, moss, agave, cactus, cholla, juniper and Joshua tree. Through various iterations—installations that have taken place both indoors and outside—we consider visual pattern and techniques of cover as part of both a natural ecosystem and a psychologically complex human landscape.
Throughout history deserts have thwarted human presence. Extreme temperatures and low water content make life difficult, but many plants and creatures have met the challenge with unique techniques for survival, from camouflage to hiding tactics. The desert has long been used for military testing, and nature’s wealth of survival techniques have been appropriated for warfare. In the 20th-century, during the World Wars, the development of camouflage really took off, as artists and naturalists were enlisted to assist in the hiding of troops and equipment to confuse attackers. Inventive approaches were devised: dazzle, shadow and shape distortion, mimicry, disruptive coloration. Many of these employ bold, abstract and striking designs. It may be no coincidence that in the early 20th-century, Cubist and Surrealist artists also held a keen interest in such visual phenomena. Over the decades, war, art, theater, and fashion have played a part in camouflage’s role in pop culture. We are interested in this rich history, and the blurred lines and overlaps between the various cultural applications of camouflage.
In the California desert, camouflage takes on a symbolic resonance because of a strong military and aerospace presence there. With all this in mind, we examine pattern and natural design as part of both a natural ecosystem and a psychologically complex human landscape. Beginning this project in 2013, Anne Martens made a series of photographs at Joshua Tree National Park. She created repeat patterns that both artists then selected to be made into custom wallpaper and fabrics. Autumn Harrison designed a series of sculptures from ornate wooden structures to weighted “stones,” to compliment the fabrics and wallpaper.
— Autumn Harrison and Anne Martens