Handmade paper installation artist Jane Ingram has lived in more than a handful of states and done residencies in about just as many countries from Brazil to Nepal. She lived in Taiwan for eight years from 2004-12. Ingram’s next stop: Fire Island.
From Sept. 5-19, Ingram will take part in the Fire Island National Seashore (FINS) Artist-in-Residence Program. Now in its third year, the program provides creative and educational opportunities for artists of all disciplines to explore the qualities of the natural environment, culture and history of Fire Island and to support the mission of the National Park Service (NPS) to promote the conversation and preservation of the park. The artists begin to create new work inspired by Fire Island and host a lecture or workshop for the public.
During the two-week span on the island, Ingram will use materials found on the beach, natural and manmade within NPS regulations, to make paper for her upcoming mapping project, something inspired by her decades of travel.
“When you’re traveling and going to a new place, you’re always looking at maps,” Ingram said. “I’ve become really fascinated with the lines, shapes, colors and textures of maps. I see it as another way of looking at the landscape and getting to know a place.”
Ingram can’t wait to pick up some beach grass on Fire Island to use in her pieces. If that sounds like an oxymoron, a papermaking environmentalist, someone who takes from the earth to make art, think again. Ingram actually uses leaves or branches that are trimmed or that are going to be waste materials. Sometimes, when her works are done, she even puts the pieces back in nature. She works with materials like seeds, allowing the piece to evolve naturally.
“Art is not something that needs to be permanent,” Ingram said. “It can change over time and go with nature. We don’t need to control it.”
Ingram learns something new from each place she visits, taking particular note of the way each culture treats the environment and allows it to inspire her work.
“In the Western culture, we think we can control nature,” she said. “[In Asia], it’s a lot more about balance, living in harmony with nature and not trying to control it so much. I think with the natural disasters we’re experiencing, we can see that we can’t control nature. You have to learn to adjust to it, work with it.”
She hopes that through her work and residency she can bring attention to environmental issues, like the impact global warming has had on the water. Her map may show the ever-changing Fire Island shoreline, recently impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
“I think artists can bring awareness and raise public awareness in a different way than sometimes scientific knowledge does or preaching,” Ingram said. “It’s a softer way of trying to make people start to think about these things. Most of the time it doesn’t change the world, but it makes people aware of it so they can change what they’re doing.”