Reminiscent of the childhood hobby of pressing leaves between wax paper, Mortensen’s S3 series reimagines leaf collecting. The artist-invented process stands for Selectively Skeletonized Sycamores. Using the large leaves from sycamore trees, Mortensen painstakingly cuts away each leaf’s “flesh”, revealing the complex veining system within the leaf. The fragile transparent veins are then highlighted by framing the leaf collection on white backgrounds. Mortensen cuts away with his S3 process in varying patterns and geometric shapes, creating gently overlapped collages of the leaf edges.
Discarded blossoms are also brought back to life with detailed collage. The tiny buds from Hawaiian starflowers are each given their own identity, before being unified into Mortensen’s organic patterns. Using glue and archival mat board, the artist hand places each blossom and stem, creating cross hatched patterns that explode into more chaotic disarray as the reach to the edges of the picture plane.
Mortensen also reuses discarded elements found in the garden. Salvaged bamboo garden stakes are broken down to create a gridwork of patterns. Sections of the bamboo strips are color treated, by selectively burning portions, creating contrasting black and natural bamboo colors. The stakes are then arranged to create simple geometric shapes.
Owen Mortensen’s brand of organic art gently organizes the aesthetic qualities of organic objects, while reusing fragments of nature that would otherwise be discarded.