Roslyn.188 is a watercolor on gesso painting by Suze Woolf

Painting Details

Watercolor on gesso, varnished, with 4 grommeted hanging tabs, one in each corner
25 x 19
This is the one that started them all. I was painting plein air in a field near Roslyn, Washington, on a cold clear day. I would back away from my easel to see how my painting was progressing, and bump into the nearby telephone pole. After about the third time, I realized I found the stamped metal numbers on the plates much more interesting than the nearby field. I have always loved letter shapes as well as the color of yellow so often used in signage. These paintings gave me the chance to contrast random, intermixing colors -- what watercolor does best -- with tightly rendered letterforms.

For me, the numbers on utility poles form a paradox of anonymous identity. They must represent location and inventory, but they are utterly faceless and unmemorable. Most people don't even realize they've seen them, and I like getting people to see what they usually ignore.

Like IP addresses and social security numbers they are meaningless in themselves yet they play important roles. Poles in rural areas often display layered generations of numbering systems. All the numbers are likely to disappear in the future as more and more such data are encoded on invisible radio-frequency identification tags. So in addition to a peculiar compunction to bring them to the viewer’s conscious mind, I feel as if I am documenting a fading history.

Here is a video from a recent group show where I explain my obsession with them. Also, here is a wonderful Johnny Firefly poem left for me at a recent exhibit.

You can find the answers to some utility pole questions at The Old Grey Pole Fan Page.

Please contact me if you are interested in learning more about any of my images. All represent original paintings, not reproductions. I have many more paintings than are shown on this site. And, since I frequently work in series, there may be additional views of the subjects shown here.