Luke Gumaelius

Artist Statement

Beach Trash Collage Series

Walking the sand and stone of the Montana de Oro, you cannot escape the power of the Pacific as it bangs against the coast.  Each turn of your head, each refocus of the eye brings a new view of exquisite natural beauty perpetually in flux.  The thrum of life roars with each wave. Tide rolls in, tide rolls out.  

Beach wrack arrives with entangled tendrils deposited onto sandy shores. Each tidal incursion also leaves an anthropic imprint - a vestige of our single use addiction - a devil’s bargain to which we have little alternative. Labels and propaganda embedded on plastic fragments, large and small, are forever remnants of humanity speaking to our avarice of convenience. Eternal reminders return on each wave as if to ask, “Is this yours”?

Morro Rock, the majestic volcanic plug in Morro Bay, California, is the muse for this series as she resides, ancient, alongside three stacks from a decommissioned power plant. This industrial waste – a mere fifty years old compared to the 23-million-year-old queen – is an incongruity duplicated each day as plastic washes up onto the ancient beaches of the Montana de Oro. The pieces in this collection express the battle between the natural and profane in collages that depict the Rock and her concrete consorts. Other pieces abstract the relationship between real and contrived.

Luke was born in California but lived most of his life in Indiana before recently returning to the west coast. Over the course of his training as a plant biologist, Luke paired a life-long love of the natural world with hard science. Focusing on insects and the impact of the small on the larger ecosystem, he laid the groundwork for his art which would emerge through his work in the construction industry. His blending of the natural world with human constructions (literal and ideological) is fundamental to his art. Luke’s focus is aesthetic. He finds it looking through a microscope, on a spreadsheet or reviewing the form of a fallen tree. The natural twists of a plant’s vascular bundle, the color arrangement on an insect’s body or the cornicing on an old building – whether driven by a genetic and environmental interaction or purposely placed –  bring harmony and wonder.