Michelle Peterson-Albandoz grew up surrounded by forests in both Connecticut and Puerto Rico, and found a connection to them that has lasted throughout her creative career. Experiencing first-hand the pristine quality and balance of these ecosystems made her hyper aware of the effect humans have on the environment outside of those woods. Now having lived in Chicago for nearly twenty years, Peterson-Albandoz has been surrounded by a constantly changing urban landscape, full of both destruction and construction. Historic but decrepit wood buildings were pulled down like trees in logging sites and their planks and beams were systematically dumped into landfills, rotting in piles. Her artwork benefited from a visceral response to this waste. She began collecting heaps of the discarded wood and turning them into the basis of her artistic process today.
Peterson-Albandoz sees her creative process as a kind of reversal of time and waste. The backwards journey begins with the gathering of discarded wooden planks from lots, alleys and dumpsters. She says, â€œI remove the nails, erasing the man-made elements that bound the wood together â€“ stripping, sawing and cutting the wood pieces, reducing them further away from structural forms.â€ Sorting them to like-colors and textures helps her stay open to rhythm and patterns during the building of the work. Layers of old wood still containing the cracked paint and rusty nail holes begin to build up like a living tree once more. It is at the same time a reminder of the tree that once grew in the forest, the harvesting and manipulating of it into architectural structures and the ultimate rebirth as an aesthetic object.