Jill O'Bryan making a Desert Frottage drawing.
Photo: Alison Sirico
I document phenomenal and meditative interactions with elements of nature recording the reciprocity of observing and being observed by the environment. To make the “desert frottages” I lie down on large sheets of paper and make rubbings of the rocks on the mesa where I reside part of the year. Rubbing graphite or charcoal against the paper, an impression of the rock forms, recording my corporeal connection with the land and its cracks and crevices formed by time.
Recording my interactions with the dirt and rock, sifting through the desert rubble, which is alive with activity, I lie down on it and let the rock hold me. Then I draw this holding, which I experience as a resonance. I am not just scratching on the surface, so to speak, in some way these drawings are about retrieving depth.
In a time when awareness of our environment is becoming more and more crucial, these desert frottages are not just renderings of the land, they also render the history of how the water, wind, and fire have helped form every inch of it.
Forming an intimate connection with the land leads to thinking about ethical relationships with nature, and reciprocity with the land. In other words: Do you let the land hold you? Or do you just lay claim to it?
The outward act of recording coincides with an inward experience of expansion. In the series of “Breath Drawings,” I archive time by counting and recording my breaths. Referencing Tonglen breathing (a form of meditation found in Tibetan Buddhism), the drawings are made in hours long drawing marathons that take place over days, months and sometimes years, archiving time and breath.