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Margaret Byrd

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Margaret Byrd

I blame my last name (Byrd) for giving me an unquenchable need to fly, to explore, to travel. From a young age, I started my journey to satiate my wanderlust, and as luck would have it, stumbled into my love of creating art. Having discovered both of these passions, I began intertwining the two, leading me down a winding path to installation art.

Formally trained in photography at the University of Montana, inspiration came from the natural world I was surrounded by, but I found a need to use my hands for building, and mixed media sculpture became my creative vehicle. My first installation was Polaroid transfers on hand-made paper embedded in large ice blocks placed outdoors to interact with the environment. The images were revealed slowly as the sculptures melted over several days, and eventually, blew away with the wind. From that launching point, I was hooked on creating ephemeral work outside of the four walls, influenced by its surroundings, and openly available to be discovered by others, in hopes of piquing curiosity and encouraging wonder of space and time.

Margaret Byrd

This passion has bubbled up and quietly simmered over 20 years as life tugged me in different directions. Although there were many quiet years after art school, I always held the dream of expanding my creative exploration.

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2015, my priorities shifted to care partner, and my creativity surged as a coping mechanism and a powerful way for self-care. What bloomed from a tumultuous time was a deeper understanding of how important it was to follow my life-long passion, so my travel began in search of inspirational locations to create installation art.

Margaret Byrd

In November 2017, Iceland presented the perfect environment to explore my fascination with ice as a transient medium, and I installed 14 small sculptural clusters around the Westfjords and Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The fever spread quickly as I traveled to place ephemeral installations across significantly diverse geographical locations over the following three years, and I continue to do so today.

From the Arctic regions of Lofoten, Norway, to the high desert plateau of Peru and along the wild Pacific coastline from Washington to Mexico, I feel I have barely scratched the Earth’s surface, but I’m excited and simply grateful to keep exploring. Suffice to say, every time I install, it’s fuel for the next steps in my creative voyage.

Margaret Byrd

Installing ephemeral art in pristine environments has opened my eyes to the magical world of nature’s colors, and I’ve been creating work with both botanical dyes and earth pigments since placing that first ice piece. By invitation of the Westfjords Residency, I returned to Iceland in 2019 to further explore an organic palette for my installation practice. Extracting dye from plant materials such as seaweed and lichen, I experimented with fiber, as well as ice, to build sculptural pieces for placement in the winter landscape.

Being a multi-passionate creative means I’m curious about different mediums and always on a quest to try new things, to test materials and to see what inspiration trickles in. Adding fiber to my practice has expanded my experimentation with natural dyes, and opened opportunities to scale and share my work through indoor installation as well.

The first textile I fell in love with was abaca, a woven fiber derived from a plant in the banana tree family. Its naturally stiff but malleable structure inspired my Swizzle Stick series with swirls that have been installed in sand, mud, water, storm drains, wooden benches, seaweed tufts, sagebrush and volcanic grass. Abaca’s lightweight character allowed me to design a 13-foot ceiling-suspended installation at Galeria Manuk in Fábrica La Aurora in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, as well as a large-scale kinetic installation in a public window display in the greater Seattle area in Washington.

Margaret Byrd

In an effort to expand my palette and deepen my knowledge of natural textile dyes, I attended an artist residency at Arquetopia in Oaxaca, Mexico, in the spring of 2020. Three weeks of instruction by a local dye master introduced me to a diverse rainbow of organic materials including cochineal, indigo, pericon and muicle. The variation of natural hues has provided a beautifully rich fiber inventory that is inspiring a new series of texturally dynamic artwork on canvas where textile has become my mixed media ‘paint’.

Margaret Byrd

An equally exciting endeavor that blossomed in 2020 is the creation of my YouTube channel, Margaret Byrd: Color Quest. With tutorial content focused on foraging, extracting and utilizing natural color in one’s creative practice, I have discovered an outlet to share this passion with a wider audience and build a community with those inspired to explore the beauty of nature’s palette.

Beyond fabric, the search for natural substrates that have the capacity to linger a bit longer than ice, for example, has also led me to paper pulp, and most recently, bio- plastics. My Stack series of earth pigment- painted blocks and sticks have been my faithful travel companions since their initial installation in the tropical dry forest of Sayulita, Mexico, in December 2018. The naturally harmonized, and incredibly durable, mineral pigments have tinted various colorful cairns briefly installed at inspirational junctures throughout my travels.

Margaret Byrd

At the core of my love affair with ice as a transient while extending humble respect to our world. With medium is my fascination with translucency. Bioplastic, a biodegradable substance brewed from gelatin or algae as its base, has entered my studio as the latest translucent material I’m investigating for ephemeral installation. I have replaced water in the recipe with the botanical dyes I’m cooking to create natural colors that I can form into sculptural pieces. My work with bioplastics is in its infancy and is stretching my creativity in new and challenging ways.

Margaret Byrd

One of the most important revelations I’ve made on this artistic journey is my growing passion to honor the symbiotic relationship I am nurturing with Mother Earth. Exploring the properties of natural materials as a vessel to toast the pigments of land and sea have introduced a new dimension of discovery in my practice while extending humble respect to our world. With these organic treasures, I am quietly giving thanks for her beautiful bounty.

Margaret Byrd

And finally, as an artist with a love of the ephemeral, my creative practice carries a simple message of presence. Building art with nature’s gifts that quietly return to the earth is a reminder that we can celebrate our moment in time without leaving a traceable impact.

Margaret Byrd

I blame my last name (Byrd) for giving me an unquenchable need to fly, to explore, to travel. From a young age, I started my journey to satiate my wanderlust, and as luck would have it, stumbled into my love of creating art. Having discovered both of these passions, I began intertwining the two, leading me down a winding path to installation art.

Formally trained in photography at the University of Montana, inspiration came from the natural world I was surrounded by, but I found a need to use my hands for building, and mixed media sculpture became my creative vehicle. My first installation was Polaroid transfers on hand-made paper embedded in large ice blocks placed outdoors to interact with the environment. The images were revealed slowly as the sculptures melted over several days, and eventually, blew away with the wind. From that launching point, I was hooked on creating ephemeral work outside of the four walls, influenced by its surroundings, and openly available to be discovered by others, in hopes of piquing curiosity and encouraging wonder of space and time.

Margaret Byrd

This passion has bubbled up and quietly simmered over 20 years as life tugged me in different directions. Although there were many quiet years after art school, I always held the dream of expanding my creative exploration.

When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2015, my priorities shifted to care partner, and my creativity surged as a coping mechanism and a powerful way for self-care. What bloomed from a tumultuous time was a deeper understanding of how important it was to follow my life-long passion, so my travel began in search of inspirational locations to create installation art.

Margaret Byrd

In November 2017, Iceland presented the perfect environment to explore my fascination with ice as a transient medium, and I installed 14 small sculptural clusters around the Westfjords and Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The fever spread quickly as I traveled to place ephemeral installations across significantly diverse geographical locations over the following three years, and I continue to do so today.

From the Arctic regions of Lofoten, Norway, to the high desert plateau of Peru and along the wild Pacific coastline from Washington to Mexico, I feel I have barely scratched the Earth’s surface, but I’m excited and simply grateful to keep exploring. Suffice to say, every time I install, it’s fuel for the next steps in my creative voyage.

Margaret Byrd

Installing ephemeral art in pristine environments has opened my eyes to the magical world of nature’s colors, and I’ve been creating work with both botanical dyes and earth pigments since placing that first ice piece. By invitation of the Westfjords Residency, I returned to Iceland in 2019 to further explore an organic palette for my installation practice. Extracting dye from plant materials such as seaweed and lichen, I experimented with fiber, as well as ice, to build sculptural pieces for placement in the winter landscape.

Being a multi-passionate creative means I’m curious about different mediums and always on a quest to try new things, to test materials and to see what inspiration trickles in. Adding fiber to my practice has expanded my experimentation with natural dyes, and opened opportunities to scale and share my work through indoor installation as well.

The first textile I fell in love with was abaca, a woven fiber derived from a plant in the banana tree family. Its naturally stiff but malleable structure inspired my Swizzle Stick series with swirls that have been installed in sand, mud, water, storm drains, wooden benches, seaweed tufts, sagebrush and volcanic grass. Abaca’s lightweight character allowed me to design a 13-foot ceiling-suspended installation at Galeria Manuk in Fábrica La Aurora in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, as well as a large-scale kinetic installation in a public window display in the greater Seattle area in Washington.

Margaret Byrd

In an effort to expand my palette and deepen my knowledge of natural textile dyes, I attended an artist residency at Arquetopia in Oaxaca, Mexico, in the spring of 2020. Three weeks of instruction by a local dye master introduced me to a diverse rainbow of organic materials including cochineal, indigo, pericon and muicle. The variation of natural hues has provided a beautifully rich fiber inventory that is inspiring a new series of texturally dynamic artwork on canvas where textile has become my mixed media ‘paint’.

Margaret Byrd

An equally exciting endeavor that blossomed in 2020 is the creation of my YouTube channel, Margaret Byrd: Color Quest. With tutorial content focused on foraging, extracting and utilizing natural color in one’s creative practice, I have discovered an outlet to share this passion with a wider audience and build a community with those inspired to explore the beauty of nature’s palette.

Beyond fabric, the search for natural substrates that have the capacity to linger a bit longer than ice, for example, has also led me to paper pulp, and most recently, bio- plastics. My Stack series of earth pigment- painted blocks and sticks have been my faithful travel companions since their initial installation in the tropical dry forest of Sayulita, Mexico, in December 2018. The naturally harmonized, and incredibly durable, mineral pigments have tinted various colorful cairns briefly installed at inspirational junctures throughout my travels.

Margaret Byrd

At the core of my love affair with ice as a transient while extending humble respect to our world. With medium is my fascination with translucency. Bioplastic, a biodegradable substance brewed from gelatin or algae as its base, has entered my studio as the latest translucent material I’m investigating for ephemeral installation. I have replaced water in the recipe with the botanical dyes I’m cooking to create natural colors that I can form into sculptural pieces. My work with bioplastics is in its infancy and is stretching my creativity in new and challenging ways.

Margaret Byrd

One of the most important revelations I’ve made on this artistic journey is my growing passion to honor the symbiotic relationship I am nurturing with Mother Earth. Exploring the properties of natural materials as a vessel to toast the pigments of land and sea have introduced a new dimension of discovery in my practice while extending humble respect to our world. With these organic treasures, I am quietly giving thanks for her beautiful bounty.

Margaret Byrd

And finally, as an artist with a love of the ephemeral, my creative practice carries a simple message of presence. Building art with nature’s gifts that quietly return to the earth is a reminder that we can celebrate our moment in time without leaving a traceable impact.