…One was the face of Nature; if a face:
Rather a rude and indigested mass:
A lifeless lump, unfashion’d, and unfram’d,
Of jarring seeds; and justly Chaos nam’d…
Ovid, Metamorphosis

The Synterial series is an offshoot of the Garden Studies and is a word I coined in an attempt to define my interests regarding shaped frames that are not merely utilitarian ways to protect what is framed, but are holistic containers that point to content as much as what is framed explores the same—coupling particular frames with particular verbal ideas enhances associative meanings, reflecting and magnifying each other within the context of highly individualized projects. Not merely ornamental, these shaped frames are meant to be so thoroughly integrated that the contents would be meaningless were it not for the frame and vice versa. Synterials are often generated by a general concept before selecting a text or otherwise building off a particular text. For example, the below works in the series began with the following titles, ideations and book references:

  • Pollination of Devonia:  a frame with a bridge to another frame: Periodic Table, Big Bang Theory
  • Surrender to Vastness:  a spired frame:  various quotes about the “sublime
  • Conflict of the Heart:  a pregnant frame:  Hamlet
  • American Sublime:  a cornered frame:  The Scarlet Letter

Initiated in late 2001, I began to work with particular texts to inform shaped frames, associatively augmenting the ideas found within each selected text. I call these works Synterials because I have to conceptually synthesize each and every aspect of the piece before execution, which requires a kind of director’s or architect’s conception and coordination—a kind of holo-sythesis. In many ways, the Synterials are like works of installation art on a compact scale. I consider the word Synterial to be a general collage term that distinguishes a composite selection of materials, objects and images, whose joint relationships, content and physicality are metacognitively worked out before the process of construction begins. As a general collage term, the word should not be confused as a series about a conceptual process only. Importantly, the Synterial series is an extension of the Terra Reverentia series and the Garden Studies.

While the Synterial seriesexplores the relationships between collage aesthetics and the definition of landscape in highly detailed ways, it is important to acknowledge that the series in general builds off artist Jess’ (Collin) “Translations,” which always begin with text, which are in turn always affixed to the back of his works. Similarly, Synterial backs are replete with quotes and references. The distinction between the Garden Study drawings and Synterials has to do with the ways in which each particular series looks to landscape history. The Synterial series for example, is not limited to a particular realm of land depiction such as painting, as are the drawings over Ovid’s Metamorphosis, which more often than not appropriate imagery from landscape history in as much as I attempt to mimic, augment, copy or edit well-known land painter’s scenery. The distinguishing aspect of the Synterial series—the primary reason for creating this body of work—is the exploration of motivating forces and factors about how and why we humans inhabit space and treat land the ways in which we do. I am interested in the psychology and morality of land usage and the attitudes that govern our behavior in the field and how these fleeting attitudes shifts from century to century, decade to decade. The Ovid series is more about chronicling the history of how the present conditions evolved and those drawings are often relegated to intuitive and gestural creation in keeping with Ovid’s opening poem, whereas the Synterial works are attempts to give meaning and shape to the “rude and indigested mass,” the “unfashion’d, and unfram’d jarring seeds” of our consumer-based global lifestylesand the “Chaos” of our planets deteriorating condition.

Todd Bartel 2007 (revised, June 2010)


Garden Study (Pollination of Devonia)


Computer-cut mat board, etched glass bearing the word “re member,” mustard seeds between three layers of glass and copper tape with patina in constructed wood frame; watercolor, ink, Craypas, tempera, charcoal and blood on two pages from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, with collage on 19th century engraving; tempera and watercolor over Xerox transfers (text from Genesis 1- 3, & 26) on 19th century book end pages.

55 3/8” x 22 5/8” x 1 1/4” 

 photo credit: Tom Young


Garden Study (Surrender to Vastness)


Computer-cut mat board; 19th century stereoview; watercolor on 19th century book end pages; tempera on book end pages circa 1880 with Xerox transfer; mustard seeds between layers of glass, copper tape with patina, mounted in artist’s made wood frame.

14 1/2” x 67 1/4” x 1 3/4”


Garden Study (Conflict of the Heart)


Computer-cut mat board; watercolor on book end pages circa 1880; pen, ink and tempera on post card postmarked 1909; pen, water color, tempera and Xerox transfer (of 19th century Astrology text book introduction) on book end page c. 1880; mustard seeds between layers of glass and etched glass, copper tape with patina mounted in constructed wood frame.

33 7/8” x 29 3/4” x 1 3/4”


Garden Study (“A”merican Sublime: Pioneers of New Eden)


Two diptych puzzle piece collages using 19th century paper and The Scarlet Letter remnants (Nathanial Hawthorne 2nd Edition, Riverside Press Cambridge MA 1978, Illustrated), with 20th Century matte and glossy paper, Filmoplast P90, pencil and lead letter type transfer, Arthur Dimmesdale’s collage (left side of frame) is translated from Ralph Albert Blakelock’s painting entitled, “The Spirit of Night,” 1889, Hester Prynne’s collage (right side of frame) is translated from Fredrick Edwin Church’s painting entitled, “Twilight Short Arbiter, Twixt Day and Night, 1850, mustard seeds, glass, etched glass, copper tape with patina, 19th century stereoview postcard (“View of Salem and Vicinity ”) archival matt, in handmade (“bent”) frame that turns 90º in order to reside in both sides of a room corner.

Each half of the bent frame measures 20 5/8” x 23 1/4” x 1 5/8”