Leah Wilson is a visual artist and writer who lives and works in Eugene, Oregon. Wilson was born and raised in Southern California. After earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute, Leah Wilson lived in Nevada City, California, located in California’s Gold Country in the Sierra Nevada foothills to pursue making art and teaching whitewater kayaking. With much overlap in interests, she created a pivotal project influenced by environmental decision-making processes of scientists, resource managers, and special interest groups during the FERC relicensing of the local watershed, the South Yuba River. This experience, as well as years of running whitewater, is the backbone that continues to inform her creative process.

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. Attracted by the long-term focus of study, 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 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.

Leah Wilson is a founding member of Gray Space, a group of Oregon artists, based in the Corvallis, Eugene and Roseburg areas who came together in 2016 to claim agency and circumvent institutional structures that require artists to ask permission. Gray Space explores how art influences place and place influences art. The project invites the inclusion of an unforeseen or unexpected audience, broadening definitions of where art can exist.

Wilson completed and installed her first major public art installation, Listening to the Forest, part of Oregon’s robust Percent for Art program, in 2020. It can be seen in Oregon State’s University’s George W. Peavy Forest Science Center. Her 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

I create place-specific artwork shaped by observing subtle environmental rhythms and oscillations over time. My artwork develops 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 wonder are interwoven throughout my art.

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. A fundamental underlying objective to create place-specific artwork is to develop a sense of belonging and personal connection to the environment that evolves and deepens over time. Some of the questions I continue to ask are:

By increasing my understanding this place, can I also simultaneously see, utilize, and know it in a different way, in a way that my presence and process as an artist can initiate and eventually establish connection, 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 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 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.

Curriculum Vitae

Education
  • MFA, Painting, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA, 2003
  • BFA, Painting & Drawing, Art Institute of Southern California, Laguna Beach, CA, 1995
Solo & Two Person Exhibitions
  • 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
  • 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
Collections
  • State of Oregon Percent for Art Collection, Oregon State University, Forest Science Center, 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
Bibliography
  • 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
  • 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)
Essays
  • “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, 2021 (upcoming)
  • Oregon Opportunity Grant, Oregon Arts Commission & Ford Family Foundation, 2021
  • Artist in Residence, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, OR, 2012
Community Engagement
  • Board Member, Eugene Contemporary Art, 2020 – Present
  • Artist Member, Eugene Contemporary Art, 2019 – Present

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