On Thursday, March 20, Trinity professor and artist Liz Ward spoke about her collection featured in the Michael and Noemi Neidorff Art Gallery. Wardâ€™s silverpoint drawings are included in the Trinity University Press book â€œUnchopping a Treeâ€ by W.S. Merwin. When Ward was asked to illustrate for the book, she immediately agreed.
â€œWhat Trinity University Press didnâ€™t know is that I had had a poem of Merwinâ€™s hung up in my studio for decades like a talisman. He is an important poet for me, so I was just ecstatic with the thought of thisâ€“and also intimidated and terrified with all the rest of it,â€ Ward said.
The collection features pieces that span the years of 1995 through 2013. After agreeing to the task of creating art that responded to Merwinâ€™s book, Ward decided to return to a piece of hers from 2005. This piece, created using silverpoint techniques, can be linked back to an even earlier piece of Wardâ€™s from 1995. Composed of four large panels, the 1995 piece features the tree ring imagery that inspired her silverpoints.
â€œLizâ€™s work is silverpoint, so itâ€™s kind of like drawing with a mechanical pencil, but instead of lead, you use a kind of wire made of silver,â€ said senior Natalie Cap.
The bookâ€™s text, along with these original pieces, served as a starting point for Wardâ€™s 2013 collection.
â€œMy challenge for the rest of the book was to make new work,â€ Ward said. â€œYou donâ€™t want to go backwards as artists. You always want to go forwards, and youâ€™re always excited about the new thing that youâ€™re working on.â€
To create the drawings featured in â€œUnchopping a Tree,â€ Ward removed herself from her usual studio and set out to create her work in France.
â€œThere was a wonderful paper mill in the areaâ€“an ancient paper mill where they took old linen rags and actually beat them underwater,â€ Ward said.
Ward used paper from this mill to create multiple layers, giving her silverpoint drawings a unique texture. Each piece is intricately detailed, with repetitive, rhythmic lines that embody images of a tree on a cellular level.
Several of Wardâ€™s students attended the exhibitionâ€™s opening to support their professor.
â€œLiz is one of my favorite professors, and her work is always environmentally themed, which is what Iâ€™m focused on,â€ said senior Cade Bradshaw.
Both Merwinâ€™s book and Wardâ€™s drawings engage with the environment, imagining the impossibility of putting back together a tree after itâ€™s been chopped. Ward hopes that her drawings have remained true to the themes of the book, responding to the text rather than simply illustrating it.
Wardâ€™s drawings will be featured in the gallery through Saturday, April 5.