Earth artist Ulrike Arnold travels the world and creates artwork at remote places known for their spiritual qualities. Her materials are the rock and earth she finds at the sites. In her latest works she uses materials from the heavens—nickel, iron, and other metal particles from meteorites. Arnold’s paintings are abstract portraits and visual journals of her experience at the enchanted locations that are her subjects.
Her solo artist exhibition, Earth Art, was shown at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, February 15 through May 4, 2014. Arnold lives in Germany most of the year, but lives in her second home in Flagstaff part of the year.
While many other artists are using more conventional pigments in their paintings, the color palette of landscape artist Ulrike Arnold contains some unusual artistic materials — earth, sand, minerals and rocks.
Since 1980, Arnold has been collecting these materials from the caves, grounds and cliffs she visits on expeditions to remote, largely uninhabited areas of the world.
Working on-site, she crushes these materials by hand or grinds them to a fine sand in a mortar, mixing them with a transparent binder. Then she spreads them on a large canvas on the ground, using diverse tools including her hands, brushes, pitchforks, spatulas and even her bare feet.
Arnold said a 1980 trip to Southern France, where she saw the breathtaking colors in the Caves of Lascaux, first inspired her to pursue a new artistic path.
“Now, seeing the colored earth gave me the sudden magic idea to paint with earth instead of colors. So the concept developed,” she recalled.
Special chance to view work
Art lovers will soon have a unique opportunity to view her large, non-representational modernist paintings during the run of a new exhibit: “Ulrike Arnold — EARTH Art Exhibition,” at the Museum of Northern Arizona.
“Ulrike Arnold’s paintings are about the Earth and they are made of earth,” explained Alan Petersen, who curated the show and is the curator of fine art at MNA.
Arnold, who is from Dusseldorf, Germany, has traveled extensively to all five continents, including areas of the Southwest where she has been particularly attracted to the geological landscapes of our area, the Colorado Plateau.
“Arnold works at a number of locations around the world known for their special qualities, and one of her favorite areas to work is on the Colorado Plateau,” Petersen noted. “Known for its beautifully colored rock formations, the plateau region provides the artist with a wealth of material.”
Although her primary studio is in Germany, Arnold has often visited her second home here in an remote area east of Flagstaff.
“I came for the first time in 1989 to Flagstaff, Arizona, through the writer Friedrich Abel, an Arizona resident living east of Flagstaff,” Arnold explained in an email. “Arizona and Utah are … my favorite places on Earth.”
INSPIRED BY LIGHT, LAND & COLOR
A canvas painted by Arnold glows with the original colors and textures of an area, and is even titled according to that location. Ultimately, she’s after the very soul of a place.
“My inspiration comes from the land, the light and colors,” Arnold wrote. “I try to capture the essence, or you can say, the soul of a place.”
Petersen said, “Her paintings may be seen as intimate portraits of the location and her aesthetic experience and process there.”
Arnold said she always looks for a “Land with Magic,” an appearance she has found in this “beautiful area” of Flagstaff.
The painter, who just worked in Senegal, West Africa, said she is on her way to the Atacama Desert, a Chilean plateau in South America, and will then return to Flagstaff to give an artist talk March 8 at the museum.
Petersen said several of the canvases in the show were done near Big Water, Utah, and there are also some paintings created near Flagstaff.
PAINTING WITH STAR-DUST WITNESSES
Also in the exhibition are two of Arnold’s distinctive meteorite paintings. In these latest works, the painter uses meteor particles (nickel, iron and metal), precious original substances found on four continents.
The inspiration for this creative path came from a random meeting 10 years ago by Arnold with meteor scientist Marvin Killgore at the Barringer Crater in Arizona.
“It’s very special to touch these messengers from the beginning of our solar system” Arnold said. “I get so inspired, feeling about time and space. For me, it’s like ‘Heaven and Earth,’ all through a lucky coincidence when I met a meteorite specialist.”
Calling them “star-dust witnesses,” Arnold is attracted to meteor particles because they come from an early epoch of the universe that is older than Earth.
“I expose myself to the forces of nature. I draw my inspiration from this daily encounter,” Arnold said. “Heaven and Earth are always close to me at Broken Arrow Cave and make me think about the beginning of time and matter, but also of early human cultures.”