Emily Davis’ “Analog Leaf Collage” workshops for adults and young adults are all about the experience, not the final product. On Saturday, Jan. 21, at PathwaysArts, Davis will use prompts and guidance to help participants discover how easy it is to connect with nature using just pressed leaves, a pair of scissors, and an LED light board.
Davis refers to the practice as analog leaf college because, she says, “I cut and arrange all of the leaves by hand with a small pair of scissors. I do not rely on Photoshop or other digital editing tools to create the designs. I am able to share my process and the final leaf collages thanks to digital photography, but the artwork itself is 100 percent analog — pressed and hand-cut leaves.” Davis adds that LED light boards act as a pathway through the process. “Somehow, they are the bridge between land and technology, even though they’re just lightbulbs. We’re bringing leaves onto the LED boards and viewing them with light from behind; we’re manufacturing and bringing the sun into the room,” Davis says.
“It’s very special to do a workshop in the wintertime that involves touching plants, having access to colors that come from the earth,” Davis says. “I don’t think I would have become an artist if I didn’t have such a powerful medium that changes you just by looking at it.”
Davis’ formal study of plants became more interdisciplinary after living and working at the Findhorn Ecovillage in Scotland while completing an agricultural sciences degree from UMass Amherst. She later went on to study at Antioch University New England, working toward an master’s degree in environmental studies, with a focus on environmental education. But after her father died, she left the program to return to the Island to be closer to family and continue her profession as a gardener. Art entered her life in 2019, during a period when she needed to take time off from work.
“To not be working with plants or my hands gave me a lost feeling,” Davis says. “I started photocopying family photos, and I would collage and photograph them after. Then instead of using paper one day, I started using leaf material.” She began by cutting silhouettes, explaining, “That old art form is something that really captured my attention because of how nuanced it is. It’s amazing how much you can do with just a pair of scissors.”
Davis first shared her leaf art at what turned out to be the last live Pecha Kucha night at the M.V. Museum before the pandemic, in January 2020. Pecha Kucha is a presentation format of 20 images for 20 seconds, during which the speaker must synchronize their speech with the images over the course of the 6 minutes and 40 seconds. “I couldn’t believe the feedback I got,” Davis says. “Twenty slides for 20 seconds each is not a long time, but it was enough to change my life, and give me the confidence that I should make time for this and do it more.”
And Davis hasn’t stopped since: “I’m never concerned that there is going to be an end to this art process. It’s going to keep evolving. The material I’m working with makes me a good artist. The medium is perfect and generous. I think this art practice is a way of slowing down, looking closely, and perfect for the winter.”
Emily Davis’ “Analog Leaf Collage Workshop” is at Pathways Arts, 9 State Road, Chilmark, on Saturday, Jan. 21, from 10:30 am to 12 pm. Materials are provided, and no experience is needed. Suggested donation is $20. Space is limited, and registration is required at bit.ly/leafsignup, or click on the poster on the main website page at pathwaysmv.org. For more information, call 508-645-9098 or email email@example.com.