Leah Wilson and Kate Ali
Hult Center Plaza
August 27 – August 3, 2018
How do we adapt to radical change? What does regeneration look like? How do we foster positive growth in our struggling populations? How can we improve/impact our social and cultural landscape to foster a sense of belonging and hope for the future? These questions are being considered at micro and macro levels across our city, state, country and global community, from Eugene’s art community to Federal land management and international policies.
Fire is the springboard for growth. It has been used as a tool because of its regenerative powers in land management and political struggles alike. Last August there was a sense that the whole country was on fire either physically or emotionally. The power and speed in which nature regenerates in the wake of a burnt landscape is both a miraculous and inspiring phenomenon. It is a needed reminder that we are part of a cycle, one that has happened before, will come again and the sooner we rebuild and foster regrowth, the better.
Gray Space Project In Progress:
Phase 1 is the creation of a 40″ x 67″ multi-layered, hand-cut image of a piece of water using clear Dura-Lar.
Constructing Water is an ongoing site-specific project. The composition is built from an image of the landscape that I had taken from the vantage point of resting on the riverbed of the South Yuba River in California, looking up through the aerated water and light to a bridge spanning the river and connecting the sides of the canyon. It is a metaphor connecting a former hometown watershed with the process of constructing a connection to my current one.
Sixteen hand-cut sheets of hanging clear Dura-Lar comprise the composition of Constructing Water, shaped by the movement of illuminated aerated water under the surface of a river. Cut out shapes create patterns of light and dark, transparency and opacity. Color is provided entirely by the landscape in which Constructing Water is placed, making the landscape and ecosystem an active contributor to the artwork.
The South Yuba River, although designated Wild and Scenic, is a constructed environment. Its flow is affected by several dams. During the California Gold Rush, its surrounding hills were blasted by the environmentally devastating practice of hydraulic mining and effects of that are still evident today. It is a river that I grew to know and love intimately by whitewater kayaking and swimming in its waters, and hiking and camping along its riverbanks throughout the seasons and years. I recognized the way the water tasted and smelled, and felt its various moods and characters at different water levels. It felt a part of me.
Constructing Water’s intended locations are within the McKenzie River Watershed in Oregon. Like the South Yuba River, a stretch of the McKenzie River is also Wild and Scenic, and is also affected by several dams. Riverbanks lined with riprap confine the water to protect a highway and homes. The history of logging has drastically altered the ecosystem.
Although I have also paddled, hiked, and camped along the McKenzie River, my relationship with this watershed is different. Constructing Water creates a bridge and and invitation to construct a new relationship with this river. This is ongoing process, a project in its own right, and it has been evolving as I come to learn its history, character and moods throughout the seasons and years.
Leah Wilson was born and raised in Southern California. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the Art Institute of Southern California (now the Laguna College of Art and Design). After earning an Master of Fine Arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute, Leah Wilson moved to Nevada City in California’s Gold Country in the Sierra Nevada foothills to pursue making art and teaching whitewater kayaking. Often with much overlap in pursuits while there, she created a pivotal project influenced by environmental decision-making process of scientists, resource managers, and special interest groups during the FERC relicensing of her local watershed, the South Yuba River. This experience, as well as years of running whitewater, continues to inform her process.
In 2008, Wilson moved to Eugene, Oregon. A 2012 artist residency at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in the Oregon Cascades introduced her to ecologists working on long-term studies in the forest. That experience, and her interactions with the scientists, relates to her current work. Wilson’s interaction with the forest and its associated ecologists led her to realize that science in general, and ecology in particular, seeks to identify patterns (and changes in patterns) over time. Often, in terms of process and product, the most evident element of her work is repetition, rhythm, and pattern related to water in general, and rivers and streams in particular.