Confluence - Correspondence
September 2019
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The summer has been a slow period for the Confluence projects, perhaps a kind of estivation (summer's version of hibernation, as salamanders do, waiting out the dry months). Yet the work continues at a careful ebb. Lately I have been visiting San Francisco's Letterform Archive, a remarkable collection of original material of the letter arts. I'm starting a new project on the physicality of letters, grasping more about the wonders of written communication with each research visit. Above, a medieval Latin fragment, drawn with a feather nib pen on parchment. What an exultant 'X'!
This manuscript is ball point pen on legal pad, from the Special Collections of the University of Nevada, Reno, a note written by Federal Water Master Claude Dukes (1914 - 1984). Variable and generously looped, I've turned his writing into a digital font and will use it for my next materials test on a public curb: Dukes' handwriting, my words. About the first materials test, see my fall 2016 post.
On a separate commission from the National Forest Foundation, I've been drawing tree rings as if they were the slow accumulation of thoughts within the trees themselves. My method reverses the curb texts approach as I borrow  phrases from scientists and others but express them in my own hand. The two texts in this drawing are adapted from Gayle Ness in Experiments in Consilience (Westley and Miller, eds.) and Mary Douglas' Risk and Culture. The drawings and references are on my website HERE.
Now two years into the NFF commission, even a stack of two by fours appears like an almanac of trends, capacities and differences, each band an entry on temperature and water availability, forest density, and the eagerness for increase.
Something like the nuances of tree rings is what I hope for my work on Reno sidewalks, but of water and land and of how we overlap in space and time.

In the screenshot above I'm working out my digital version of Claude Dukes handwriting, with letter spacing not yet adjusted. To make a materials test, I'll divide a thirty-foot long sentence between three different graphics products, assessing which performs best. Like my chalk version in Point Reyes last April, the texts are meant to be read in the slowed cadence of outdoor reflection. Here is the full sentence:

From then on, walking became a kind of reading, as bodies absorbed stories from the land and thoughts of water shaping hill-slopes, forests and stream channels settled gradually into existence.

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All images by Todd Gilens unless noted otherwise.

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Copyright © 2019 Todd Gilens, All rights reserved.

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