Michael Boonstra’s work explores our perception of landscape, time, place, and scale. Many of his recent projects involve time sensitive site-based elements that continue into his studio practice. This allows for both a direct and indirect exploration of place and space through a process that continually shifts between drawing, photography, installation, and sculpture. Recent awards include a Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission, project funding from the Ford Family Foundation, and residencies at Playa and the Djerassi Resident Artist Program. Recent exhibitions include SOIL Gallery in Seattle, Duplex in Portland, and Fairbanks Gallery at Oregon State University. He has done installation work and site-based projects in Michigan, California, and at numerous sites throughout the Pacific Northwest. Boonstra received his BFA from the University of Michigan and his MFA from the University of Oregon. He currently teaches at Oregon State University.
My current work has two branches of exploration. The first uses drawing and photography to explore the shift from a historical horizon-based perspective of the landscape to an aerial view. This work uses aerial photographs and utilizes the vernacular of satellite images and mapping as a point of departure. I am interested in how this perceptual shift influences the way in which we think about our planet, and if it will alter the way we see/perceive landscape. We are becoming accustomed to looking at “where we are” from an indirect, sky-to-surface oriented viewpoint, a viewpoint without a horizon. The space we exist in and experience from moment to moment becomes flattened and abstracted. Socrates stated, “Man must rise above the Earth – to the top of the atmosphere and beyond – for only then will he fully understand the world in which he lives.” We are now at that point in time. Do we fully understand the world? What have we learned? What are we forgetting? What are we unable to know? Beyond this shift in perspective, I’m also interested in examining aerial images as a visual language of sorts. The lines, shapes, growth, and decay that we see from above are embedded with cultural and historical information. They are a physical history that reflects and illustrates the relationship we have with our world, namely through varying levels of power, control, or integration. The second branch of my creative practice involves site-based sculptural installations that explore time and perception through the use of light. These installations utilize reflection, camera obscuras, translucent materials, and the directionality of sunlight and shadows to create time-layered experiences. I’m interested in creating spatial interfaces that employ immediate environmental ephemera while simultaneously creating an opportunity for slower changes to become apparent. Through the simple act of noticing the shifting of light and the movement of wind, we are offered the opportunity to become more conscious of place, from our immediate surroundings to our planetary orbit.