Saturday, November 21, 2009

“We believe the images and patterns of Birch Bark spiritually connect the Universe and the human soul”.

You know that moment, when you are watching a heart-warming, uplifting film, when the director sneaks past your defenses and awakens wonder or tenderness or just some strong feeling that is so alien to you that it is uncomfortable or impossible to identify and you tear up? Or when you are reading a book, and the author reconnects you with a wholesome innocence that requires no shields? Or maybe your life is less vicariously natured than mine, and you have these moments on a hike or with your children or Sunday morning at a church sermon.

I was at an art show this weekend and met Stalina Roubinova. She, and her collective turn to the trees for inspiration and rather than needing to reconstruct, re-imagine or form an analogy for the beauty they see, they select and frame what is right before their eyes. Following a Russian tradition which conjures images out of birch bark, they let the bark itself form the narrative. The images are framed by the eye, and the bark preserved, nothing else is added. This is found art risen to the sublime.

I spent some time lost in her work. It made my chest clench and my throat choke. I almost needed to get away as it brought up such vulnerability, moved me so deeply, that I felt self-conscious out in public. It reached inside me and touched the part of me that makes me alive.

Miss Roubinova guided me, demonstrated to me that with different eyes, different perspectives, there were endless images, feelings and ideas in the work. I was so overtaken, I tried to gush over her work, and she remained humble, as though not an artist, just someone who walked out into the woods with me, a lowly spokesperson for the marvels of nature.

There was a tiny little piece, with a fungus growing in the corner, looking much like a small bouquet of flowers. I watched it for a long time, thinking of it as a gift for my daughter, imagining her always magic-alert eyes pouring over it. As I was just reaching the “sold” moment, my eyes were plucked away to another piece. Another tiny marvel with a glorious blossom of fungus. The glimpse that reached out to me was a faerie, and knowing my eight year olds fascination, this had to be the one. I only ever saw the faerie for a moment. That seems to be an elusive nature of magic.

Carrying it around throughout the afternoon at the show, I saw many other things in the child sized artwork and wished I had better eyes to see the faerie again, hovering just over the bark. My daughter will see the faerie, and no doubt much other magics that are beyond my too trained eyes.

You can view their website, which has a portfolio, but there is no digital substitution for the numinous experience of standing before one of these pieces.

If you happen to be in Ottawa, you can go look for yourself. The group is having a show at Lansdowne Park from December 10th to the 20th

Inquiries can be made at

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