A 2012 artist residency at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in the Oregon Cascades introduced Leah Wilson to ecologists working on long-term studies and field research. Attracted by the enduring focus of inquiry, she is now an episodic lifetime artist in residence at the Andrews Forest. The place and the scientists continue to shape and influence her artwork. Wilson’s interaction with the forest and its community led her to realize that science in general, and ecology in particular, seek 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.

Wilson is currently collaborating with scientists studying the ecology of the Klamath River, a river slated for the historic simultaneous removal of four dams in 2023. She is an embedded member of a field research team and she regularly assists with data collection. Wilson’s goal is not to explain or illustrate science but to ask better questions to better know the river, to experience it from different perspectives, and to create artwork coexisting alongside science.

After graduate school, Leah Wilson lived in the Sierra Nevada foothills. While there, she created a pivotal project influenced by the environmental decision-making processes of scientists, resource managers, and special interest groups during the Federal Energy Relicensing Commission’s assessment of the beloved local watershed. This experience, as well as decades of running whitewater, is the backbone that continues to inform her creative process.

Leah Wilson is a founding member of Gray Space, a group of Oregon artists who came together to claim agency and circumvent institutional structures that require artists to ask permission and explores how art influences place and place influences art.

Wilson’s artwork has been exhibited at galleries throughout the West Coast and her work is in public and private collections including the Percent for Art Collection of the State of Oregon, Oregon State University, Umpqua Community College, Adobe Systems Inc., eBay, Inc., and others.

Artist Statement

Cultivating environmental empathy is critical at this juncture with our relationship to our planet. A fundamental underlying objective to create my place-specific artwork is to develop a sense of belonging and personal connection to the natural environment that evolves and deepens over time. I allow my art to be shaped by observing and responding to subtle environmental rhythms and oscillations. My creative practice evolves through a process of seeking around the edges where science drops its threads of inquiry, yielding, and opening a space for me to pick up threads to play with it. Both my process and finished artwork reflect an engagement with ecological relationships through imagination, observation, data, science, and physical interaction. Stories of connection, natural flow and rhythms, and awe and wonder are interwoven throughout my art.

I bear witness to environmental changes and honor what is present rather than prove my beliefs to be correct or to satisfy my expectations. I follow threads of inquiry presented to me when I am physically present in the place. My process requires a commitment of extended time with natural ecosystems and frequently includes places that are dedicated to the pursuit of increasing ecological scientific knowledge. Some of the threads of inquiry I continue to seek are:

By increasing my understanding of this place, can I also simultaneously see, utilize, and know it differently, in a way that my presence and process as an artist can initiate and eventually establish connections, knowing, and belonging? Can my development of a visual language, methods of discovery, and creative process fit alongside the language and methods of science in a meaningful way? What is the personal effect of consciously setting out to develop a deep connection and relationship with this place, and can it inspire others to ameliorate the disconnection they may feel from their own places and environments? How would that, in turn, affect the places that others have come to know?

Answers are revealed slowly, if at all, and most often searching for answers only leads to more questions. Connections are likely found within ephemeral experiences. Often my process of coming to know and building relationships with places can feel like attempting to collect the evanescence. However, continuing the seemingly futile attempt to collect what cannot be held focuses my attention and increases clarity. Continuing this process opens a space for a deeper investigation to notice what the environment reveals within its unfolding layers. Through an intentional persistent and cyclical process of asking, noticing, collecting, creating, and reflecting, connections are made, my relationship with the ecological communities deepens and shapes me, and my art evolves.

Webinars, Lectures & Artist Talks

Video Archive

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Curriculum Vitae

  • MFA, Painting, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA, 2003
  • BFA, Painting & Drawing, Art Institute of Southern California, Laguna Beach, CA, 1995
Solo, Two & Three Person Exhibitions
  • Seeing a River, Truckenbrod Gallery, Corvallis, OR (Three Person), 2023
  • Stories Told by Water, Red Door Gallery, Umpqua Valley Arts, Roseburg, OR (Solo), 2021
  • Time and Place: Ecological Works by Leah Wilson, At Liberty Arts, Bend, OR (Solo), 2019
  • Collecting Evanescence, Lane Community College, Main Gallery, Eugene, OR (Solo), 2019
  • Collecting Evanescence, Truckenbrod Gallery, Corvallis, OR (Solo), 2018
  • Solstices and Equinoxes: Paintings by Leah Wilson, Roger W. Rogers Gallery, Willamette University, Salem, OR (Solo), 2017
  • Leah Wilson: Ambient, Umpqua Valley Arts Center, Roseburg, OR (Solo), 2015
  • The Structure of Nature, The Arts Center, Corvallis, OR (Two Person), 2014
  • Leah Wilson: Distillations of Place, Cascade Gallery, Portland, OR (Solo), 2013
  • Guardino Gallery, Portland, OR (Two Person), 2010
  • Tropes, Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts, Eugene, OR (Solo), 2009
  • Shifting Landscapes, Los Medanos College, Pittsburg, CA (Two Person), 2006
  • Yuba Songs, Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, Nevada City, CA (Solo), 2006
  • Love Poems to the Yuba, 560, Nevada City, CA (Solo), 2005 Internal, Howard Rice, San Francisco, CA (Solo), 2002
  • New Works, University of California, Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco, CA (Solo), 2000
Collaborative & Public Art
  • Listening to the Forest, Percent for Art, Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon State University, George W. Peavy Forest Science Center, Corvallis, OR, 2020
  • Metanoia Catalyst, BRIDGE Exhibition, Hult Center Plaza, Eugene, OR (Leah Wilson & Kate Ali), 2018
  • Gray Space, Founding Member, Eugene, Corvallis & Roseburg, OR 2016 – Present
Selected Group Exhibitions
  • Roundhouse Foundation Presents: Featured Artists from the PMRCAA Residency Program, Pendleton Center for the Arts, Pendelton, OR, 2022
  • Embodied Forest, EcoArtSpace, 2021
  • Reflections: OPEN, Anti-Aesthetic Gallery, Eugene Contemporary Art & BRIDGE Exhibitions, Eugene, OR, 2020
  • Common Ground, Anti-Aesthetic Gallery, Eugene Contemporary Art, Eugene, OR, 2020
  • Divergence, At Liberty Arts, Bend, OR, 2019
  • Gray Space and Tailgate Party for Art, Eugene Contemporary Art, Eugene, OR, 2018
  • Rot: The Afterlife of Trees, The World Forestry Center, Portland, OR, 2016
  • Rot: The Afterlife of Trees, The Arts Center, Corvallis, OR, 2016
  • The Art of Plankton, The Arts Center, Corvallis, OR, 2012
  • Green, Green the Color of New, David Joyce Gallery, Lane Community College, Eugene, OR, 2012
  • Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, Nevada City, CA, 2008
  • Below the Surface, Fly Trap Gallery, Sacramento, CA, 2005
  • Small Works, Julie Baker Fine Art, Grass Valley, CA, 2004
  • Small Works, Oakland Art Gallery, Oakland, CA, 2004
  • River Lovers, Lotus Art Studio, Lotus, CA, 2004
  • Spring!, Julie Baker Fine Art, Grass Valley, CA, 2004
  • Close Calls, Headlands Center for the Arts, Project Space East/West, Sausalito, CA, 2004
  • San Francisco Art Institute Master of Fine Arts Exhibition, Fort Mason, Herbst Pavilion, San Francisco, CA, 2003
  • Continuing, Diego Rivera Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 2002 Slack Jaw, Studio Z, San Francisco, CA, 2002
  • Crossing Bridges, CBS MarketWatch, San Francisco, CA, 2002
  • Ambulatory Gambit, Sunnyside Conservatory, San Francisco, CA, 2002
  • Berührungsangst, 701 Chestnut, San Francisco, CA, 2001
  • Magnificent Seven, Café Roma, Davis, CA, 2001
  • Spring Show, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA, 2001 Me We, Justice League, San Francisco, CA, 2001
  • Pigmentations, Grand Central Art Center, Santa Ana, CA, 2001
  • Annual Alumni Exhibition, Art Institute of Southern California, Laguna Beach, CA, 2000
  • That Figures, Long Beach Arts, Long Beach, CA, 1998
  • Annual Alumni Exhibition, Art Institute of Southern California, Laguna Beach, CA, 1998
  • Unusual Perceptions, Hello Artichoke Gallery, Santa Monica, CA, 1997
  • Annual Alumni Exhibition, Art Institute of Southern California, Laguna Beach, CA, 1997
  • The Really Big Show, Long Beach Arts, Long Beach, CA, 1997
  • Southern California Open Juried Exhibition, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA, 1997
  • Centered on the Center, Huntington Beach Art Center, Huntington Beach, CA, 1996
  • Thirteen After Four, Artegeo, Orange, CA, 1994
  • State of Oregon Percent for Art Collection, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
  • PacificSource, Springfield, OR
  • Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, OR
  • Oregon State University, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, Blue River, OR
  • Adobe Systems, Inc., Frankfurt, Germany
  • Adobe Systems, Inc., San Jose, CA
  • eBay, Inc., San Jose, CA
  • Namco Hometek, Inc., Santa Clara, CA
  • Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP, San Francisco, CA
  • Weintraub, Linda, “Post-Anthropocentric Creativity,” Center for Sustainable Practices Journal, Q38, 2023
  • Topozone (Raechel Root & Joseph Sussi), “Geo-graphing the Unseen: Writing, Reading, and Reimagining Landscapes” Eugene Contemporary Art, October 20, 2020
  • McInally, Mike, “’Evanescence’ at the Intersection of Art, Science” The Corvallis Gazette-Times, October 4, 2018
  • Fourie, Andries, “Solstices and Equinoxes: Paintings by Leah Wilson” Roger W. Rogers Gallery, January, 2017
  • Sherk, Christine, “Outside the Lines, Nature as Muse” The Register-Guard, April 4, 2012
  • Keefer, Bob, “Trash Runs Through It,” The Register-Guard, July 16, 2009
  • Steffen, Suzi, “Colored by Science,” Eugene Weekly, July 16, 2009
  • Chamberland, Celeste, “On the Cutting Edge,” The Davis Enterprise, August 16, 2001
Professional Presentations, Events & Community
  • Panelist, Art-Sci at Hubbard Brook, Hubbard Brook LTER, NH, January 24 – 26, 2023
  • Guest Speaker, Response, John Grade’s Emeritus Reception, Oregon State University, October 28, 2022
  • Guest Lecturer, Creative Coast, Oregon State University, Field Course, June, 2022
  • Visiting Reviewer, Mine/Seed Studio, School of Architecture & Environment, Department of Landscape Architecture University of Oregon, 2022
  • Artist Talk, Stories Told by Water, Umpqua Valley Arts, Roseburg, OR, August 5, 2021
  • Presenter: Tree Talk: Artists Speak for Trees, Moderated by Sant Khalsa, Co-Hosted by EcoArtSpace & the Joshua Tree Center for Photographic Arts, May 20, 2021
  • Webinar: Listening to the Forest, Moderated by Brooke Penaluna, Hosted by the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest Long-Term Ecological Research program, the OSU College of Forestry, and The Spring Creek Project for Nature and the Written Word, May 12, 2021
  • Panelist, Overlook Lecture Series: Recovery, Fuller Center for Productive Landscapes, University of Oregon, April 30, 2021
  • Lecturer, Collaborating with Time, a conversation with Steve Wondzell, What Will Nature Do? Lecture Series Part Two: Artists and Their Artistic Practices with Science: Lessons Learned During the Process, Co-Sponsored by the Corvallis Arts Center, Oregon State University Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering & OSU Art-Sci, April 20, 2021
  • Guest Lecturer, Dancing with Ignorance & Collecting Evanescence, Environmental Communication Theory, University of Oregon, November 25, 2020
  • Presenter, Listening to the Forest, Arts-Sci at OSU, Oregon State University, November 10, 2020
  • Guest Lecturer, Place as Collaborator, Corvallis Art Guild, November 2, 2020
  • Guest Lecturer, Art of the Microbiome, Oregon State University, February 6, 2020
  • Panelist, Time and Place: Ecological Works by Leah Wilson, Moderated by Andries Fourie with Dr. Brooke Penaluna (research fish biologist with Pacific Northwest Research Station, U.S.D.A. Forest Service) Dr. Michael Nelson (a philosopher and economist who is Oregon State’s lead principal investigator at Andrews) and Louise Shirley (Curator of Natural History at the High Desert Museum). The discussion provided context for the artwork and explored the convergence of art and science as ways of investigating the natural world, At Liberty Gallery, November 16, 2019
  • Professional Presenter, Collecting Evanescence: Seven Years at the Andrews, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, November 1, 2019
  • Panelist, Divergence (Beauty), At Liberty Arts, Bend, OR, July 6, 2019
  • Panelist, Making Your Own Way: Strategies for Building Visibility, Lane Arts Council, Eugene, Oregon, 2019
  • Guest Lecturer, Imagining Ecosystems Over Time, Environmental Arts and Humanities Field Course, Oregon State University, September, 2016
  • Professional Presenter, Art-Science Convergences at OSU, Spring Creek Project, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, April 7, 2016
  • Professional Presenter, Science Pub, Corvallis, OR, November 9, 2015
  • Professional Presenter, Artists: Voices, Perceptions, & Motivations, Real Time Data Visualizations: A 21st Century Confluence of Art, Music and Science at Ecological Research Sites, Hubbard Brook LTER, NH, November 5, 2015
  • Professional Presenter, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, HJA Day, June 25, 2015 Invited Artist,
  • Honoring Our Rivers Anthology, 2015
  • Professional Presenter, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, HJA Day, June 26, 2014
  • Professional Presenter, Portland Community College, Cascade Campus, November 14, 2013
  • Guest Artist, Willamette Riverkeeper, Paddle Oregon, 2010
Featured Publications
  • CounterBound, September 2020
  • Terra, Spring 2019
  • Oregon Historical Quarterly, Winter 2018/2019 (Artwork featured on the front and back covers)
  • “Robert Varela offers a whimsical ascent into isolation”, Critical MAS, Eugene Contemporary Art, August, 2020
  • “Kathleen Caprario’s seductively beautiful painting lures into thorny landscapes”, Critical MAS, Eugene Contemporary Art, August, 2019
  • “Discovery Trail” ROT: The Afterlife of Trees, Exhibition Catalog, The Arts Center, January, 2016
Grants & Residencies
  • Episodic Permanent Resident Artist, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, OR, Ongoing
  • Artist in Residence, Pine Meadow Ranch, Sisters, OR, 2022
  • Artist in Residence, Pine Meadow Ranch, Sisters, OR, 2021
  • Oregon Opportunity Grant, Oregon Arts Commission & Ford Family Foundation, 2021
  • Artist in Residence, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, OR, 2012
Community Engagement
  • Advisor, Art-Sci Student Fellowship, Oregon State University, 2022 – Present
  • Emeritus, John Grade Installation, Assistant Tree Climber, Oregon State University, 2022
  • Arts Advisory Committee, Roundhouse Foundation and Pine Meadow Ranch Center for Arts and Agriculture, 2021 – Present
  • Board Member, Eugene Contemporary Art, 2020 – 2022
  • Arts Residency Advisory Committee, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, 2019 – Present
  • Artist Member, Eugene Contemporary Art, 2019 – Present

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