Ponnapa Prakkamakul is a painter and a landscape architect based in Massachusetts. Growing up in an extended family of artists and musicians in Thailand has a strong influence on her artistic creativity. In watching her mother diligently make drawing paper from mulberry paper pulp, silk cocoon, and tree bark, Ponnapa learned that the making of the essence of art emerges before the white paper and continues to evolve beyond artist’s hands. This idea inspired her to use the Earth as a canvas and pursued a study in landscape architecture. Ponnapa started using soil as her main drawing media while earning her master’s degree in landscape architecture with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design.
As a landscape architect making drawings, sites play an important role in Ponnapa’s art work. Her current work explores the use of the painting process as a tool to experience and understand the surrounding environment. The process begins at the site by using the performative act of searching, studying, and collecting natural painting materials in addition to sketching in situ - establishing a more immersive experience and engagement with the landscape. The manner of soaking Stonehenge paper into the river creates understanding of the profile of the water edge. The tree bark’s print on paper also imprints a memory of that tree in her mind. In a studio, the collected materials are applied on paper as the painting medium, representing the colors of the earth and texture of the leaves. For Ponnapa, this process not only creates a connection between herself and the site but also allowing her, who relocated to the United States in 2009, to form a deeper connection with places. Through the making of the art, Ponnapa gradually identify her place in this new ground.