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Cover: Winter Girl (detail), watercolor on paper, 24 x 48 inches

Backwoods Gillian Davis

with texts by Mary Di Lucia


Artist Statement

13 - 18

Backwoods: A Folktale

21 - 28

Last Winter Girl: A Play

31 - 35

Backwoods: A Glossary

La Osa, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 inches

I live in the redwood forest of Northern California. My home is absorbed beneath mammoth Sequoia, crumbling Oak, and twisting Madrone. All around me are the arch and line of branches – the dark and tangled knots of layered tree trunks. Triangles of sky glowing through twisted limbs and leaves, flexing and shimmering in batches of pattern. Not one inch is spared in the forest. Every space is filled with shape. As I walk in these woods each day, images arise in my mind. The density of the forest cradles these images and they begin to work as one. The forest follows me into the studio. My paintings and drawings are also filled to capacity. I create with a nervous energy that is only calmed once every inch of surface is tended to. This neurotic, natural world acts as the stage for my characters to sort through their misery and chaos to find their salvation; or ultimately be destroyed. -Gillian Davis, October 2017

Boulder Creek studio, First Friends, watercolor on paper, 48 x 60 inches

Backwoods: A folktale

Encampment, Wyoming (detail) Acrylic and watercolor on paper, 48 x 36 inches

See the woman with a house inside of her. The house is burning. The fire is warm. In her conflagration, a hearth is made of the burned out house: the burned house becomes her hearth. She came down from the mountains after the men came. They surrounded her with branches and flame. But her legs are strong. The house is strong. In her burning, there is life. A child and a man sit at the table. They too are in flames. The flames are like love and they are also dangerous like love. A woman dreams. She too is in the forest. At night, the animals come. Her dreams call to them. They search for them in her hair. Her hair is full of pine and dark water. Fur meets her fur. It warms her. She does not know she is cold. On the table dark broth and a dark spoon. In the lower darker parts of the forest she finds her deeper rest. The moths come to her. The bats fly above her head. They are shapes folded from burnt paper. The sound of the burning calls them. The companions are whittled from pencil.

Big Mama, watercolor on paper, 48 x 36 inches

Her needle busies with a quilt. The quilt will bring spring to the forest. A meadow will carpet the forest. The woman dreams and dreams. Her sharp flowers cut sharper paper shapes and pierce the early piercings which will become constellations. Behind the house, the city burns. She pays it no mind. The daughters are fleeing. She pays no heed. The meadow is precise as black flames cut from the night sky. In its brightness is a city of houses of flame. Trees and towers alike are not safe from it. It lightens the sky until the stars disappear. The woman runs though she has only wooden shoes. There are daughters and animals in the procession from the forest. Their strong teeth are ready as they converge on the town. Their anguish makes dark flowers. How can there be joy here? It springs from the footprints of what once were flowers trod flat by heels. Even the ashes are blooms, hesitant as the ink in the pen of a woman who cannot write, she can only burn.

Last Winter Girl: A play in five acts (Excerpt from act I) written by Mary Di Lucia

“LAST WINTER GIRL” SKY MOTHER CYBEL’S BOY LAST WINTER GIRL LAST WINTER CAT SLEEPING HEAD CREATURES (sometimes at random, sometimes in unison) TWIN DAUGHTER TWIN BROTHER NIGHT HIPPY A VOICE Voice: “…What she wanted was what she feared.” Voice: Scene. She drew back. The dream ended. LAST WINTER GIRL: Dense, the wind. Everywhere. CREATURES:


LAST WINTER GIRL: arms covering head Time time time. Voice: The characters...

Last Winter, watercolor on paper, 24 x 48 inches (irregular)

SLEEPING HEAD: The back mind. Pause The underside. NIGHT HIPPY: First, she— LAST WINTER CAT:


NIGHT HIPPY: —she drew back, looking forwards while looking backwards LAST WINTER GIRL: a head a sword a basin Pause loud, almost screaming What have I done? sobered I have done what I have done. TWIN BROTHER: I was afraid my mother would die. SKY MOTHER: Now I am the mother. BIG MAMA: at the same time Now I am the mother. SLEEPING HEAD: dreamily the mother.

Now I am

LAST WINTER GIRL: muttering whispering …take it back to my workshop in the woods CREATURES: echo at random for 3- 5 repetitions in the woods LAST WINTER GIRL: Hours and Hours and Hours CREATURES, TWIN DAUGHTER, TWIN BROTHER, CYBEL’S BOY, BIG MAMA: 3 – 5 reps at will : Hours and Hours and Hours TWIN DAUGHTER, TWIN BROTHER: We would get books TWIN DAUGHTER:



gently the forest

BIG MAMA: el hongo CREATURES: the ferns LAST WINTER GIRL: the wind in Lander SLEEPING HEAD: the land in winder

BIG MAMA: the stove TWIN BROTHER: the painting of the ship ONE CREATURE: the fox CREATURES: brother

and his

TWIN BROTHER: the wee portrait BIG MAMA : menacingly of the killer SKY MOTHER: I just wanted to let it pause all out and hold it in SLEEPING HEAD: The large gesture standing of painting LAST WINTER GIRL: The small flat focus work of drawing

LAST WINTER GIRL: sternly So, who are you? LAST WINTER CAT: What happened to you? ###

Black Star, watercolor and fabric on paper, 48 x 48 inches (irregular)

The Walk, acrylic and fabric on paper, 24 x 48 inches (irregular)

Backwoods: A Glossary

Animal Dreams Animal dreams are useful in the work of discerning cosmic movements of the universe but they are ineffective as augurs of the anthropocentric. Often animal dreams lead to misnomers and quandaries (i.e. “rabbit” instead of “Danger!”; “wounded paw” instead of “approaching boulder” or “evildoer”; “tooth” in place of “knife”; “embrace” for “bite”). The animals do not dream by almanac. Dreaming of cat facing south still equals snow on the horizon; skunk facing south, snow in six days; water snake facing south, rain on Thursday, etc. In other words, untranslatable except for those steeped in the animal consciousness; and, when translated: preoccupied with the concerns of animals, not of primitive individuals and their souls. The Cartoon The cartoon is post-natural but still primordial. It is the desired art form of the primitive individual, who tires of the cave wall, the famous flickers there, the firelight itself, the shadows of animals cast by the firelight upon the walls, and the drawings rendered on the cave wall with burnt sticks after the cessation of the hearth. The cartoon witnesses to the swashes and splotches of the joyous spirit which is experienced in the glade at dawn under the swooping of the quetzal on her way down from chocorua. The cartoon is a scrap of paper caught on a bush. The cherry smile on the face has not faded. The cartoon is shameless. The cartoon beholds the glade. Is it really too flat to cry? First Friends (detail), watercolor on paper, 48 x 60 inches

Color Blackberries are not black. Yellow has a sound of fizzing. Pink is a pain in the lung. Color must be ground from the ground and what has sprung from the ground, but color will transgress. Color will arise from latex, plastic, rubber, varnish, jet fumes, blow torches, medicines, couch cushions, lunch boxes, polyester fabrics. Apply color when even a line does not yield enough words. Apply color when the burst bursts. Apply color when there is a desire for bloodshed and punching. Color works best for hate, anger, rage, boredom; color cools the stomping of a foot. Primitive Individuals and Their Souls Primitive individuals do not sleep. They do not keep or seek house. They do not avoid fruiting moss. Primitive individuals hold universes inside of them (these universes do not burn). These universes, the inflammable kind, are pertinent to the primitive in that they are “outside” oriented. By “outside” is meant: the Natural world, trees rocks, fields, animals, domestic and wild, flowers, native and invasive species, vines and brambles, all manner of botanical matter and all citizens of the natural order. The primitive individual has no language for these things. Instead of words, the primitive individual has hands. And, when threatened: teeth.

Sleep The ground must be swept first, the dirt must be swept from the dirt. Use a small brush to do this. Use pine. All fir needles must be swept. All shells of insects. All seed pods. All mushrooms must be gathered. Beware for they persist. The forest floor must be clean for the positioning of the head. Moss is available for cushioning. Moss must not be fruiting: it must be dormant. Moss is softest at that moment. As the eyes close, do not look too closely, for the moss is alive with universes. Its anthers are the breeding grounds of cosmoses. The fronds and blades of moss for which there is no name hide creatures. In order to complete the sleep ritual, this aspect of the moss must be resisted! Otherwise, the dreams which come will be animal dreams!

The Thick Sketch The thick sketch corresponds to the subconscious (see Sleep, and Animal Dreams, above). The subconscious is a waking life in which dreams exist. The thick sketch is something thick made of thin things, thinner than twigs or thistledown.

Wind When the wind comes down from the high mountains, when the wind follows you down and finds you, and it seeks your eyes and you bones, you are picking the prickers from the stems of the brambles, you are sorting the spores from the mushrooms, you are sifting the sky from the ground, you are sorting time into rectangles and dust from eyelashes. It is then, when you must take everything, bind it upon your back, wrap it in fleece, take every nib and brush. It is then, you must find some shelter, some shack without a door, where a light shines through the chink between two boards which you must stuff with a rag torn from your red and blue shawl, wrap it over your eyes and your ears. Now it is safe to unroll the oilcloth. It is safe to light the lamp. It is then, that the work comes and when you lift your head, childhoods have passed, the wind has gone. But before it left, it said: make more.

First Friends (detail), watercolor on paper, 48 x 60 inches

Brother, acrylic on paper, 36 x 60 inches

Daughter, acrylic on paper, 36 x 60 inches

Cybil and Tettle #1, pen on paper, 24 x 36 inches

Cybil and Tettle #2, pen on paper, 25 x 36 inches

Bramble, pen on paper, 24 x 36 inches

Mother, pen on paper, 24 x 36 inches

Published on the occasion of:

Backwoods Gillian Davis November 10, 2017 - January 9, 2018

Copyright Gillian Davis and Lyeberry Press 2018 Texts by Mary Di Lucia Documentation by Vivian Babuts Lyeberry HQ 250 Greenpoint Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11222 Published and designed by Lyeberry Press Printed and bound in the United States 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ISBN 978-0-9990309-2-9

Cover: Winter Girl, watercolor on paper, 24 x 48 inches