Dams fascinate me. We build large walls to hold the water back. We try to tame the water so we can control how much and when it flows. This contradicts the nature of water which is to constantly flow. Dams make me uneasy.Read More
Louie is proud of this work at Three Sisters Irrigation District – it is a benefit to wildlife and he wants to spread the story. But there is more to it than that. This is a mutual and reciprocal healing: a story I want to spread.Read More
Environmental problems are not a dichotomy of problems with nature on one side and humans on the other. The dichotomy begins to crumble as soon as the concept of nature is removed. How will our relationship with our ecosystems change and how will our decisions be different if the distinction disintegrates altogether?Read More
The creek has been stretched back in time, erasing not only the human created erosion and damage, but also eliminating any chiseling the creek had done on its own prior to human intervention. It’s like shaking a giant Etch A Sketch until all evidence of previous drawings have been eliminated and the raw material is reset to a flat smooth plane where a new drawing can start to take form.Read More
My relationship with Whychus Creek started tentatively. The milky glacial water was not inviting even though it was a hot day in July. The headwaters on Broken Top are not very far away. The water is cold.Read More
In conjunction with my solo exhibition, Stories Told by Water, Umpqua Valley Arts hosted an artist talk on August 5. In this talk I give context to Stories Told by Water and I introduce work in progress the studio.Read More
This place is defined by water.
I came to Pine Meadow Ranch to listen to stories of the creek on this ranch in Sisters, Oregon. The ranch is idyllic with its unobstructed views of the mountains and Whychus Creek, its milky glacial melt waters originating from Broken Top and all Three Sisters, running through the ranch.
Little, if any land on the ranch is untouched. It is a fully constructed landscape dating back to the 1800s when settlers cleared fields for cattle and began diverting streams to irrigate their ranches. Some of the coveted water rights for this ranch date back to 1895, superseding the water rights of Three Sisters Irrigation District (TSID).
Even if we are wary of beauty and its seductive qualities, it is still very difficult to avoid being seduced. Is there is a bias toward beautiful landscapes regarding scientific research?Read More
This is an ode to water, not as a resource, just as it is, with its own strange and beautiful qualities. It really is strange if you think about it.Read More
My art does not speak directly to environmental crises, environmentalism, or even ecology. There is a lot of art that does and I’m not convinced of the efficacy of much of it to change minds or to offer a new perspective, let alone to initiate action. There is only so much crisis one can take. I know this from experience.
I choose a different approach with my work.
My resistance to the label art-sci leads me to examine why I gravitate toward science with my art. I wanted more magic. Scientists show me how to see the world differently and expanding my mind by helping me see more complexity in the environment. But now, As an artist, instead of burying the magic, I get to draw it out and play with it.Read More
Art grants me certain liberties such as magic and intuition. Perhaps art offers scientists freedom and expansion to contemplate words like this. Expansions flow in both directions. I have gained freedoms and expansions from working with scientists.Read More
What do I learn from climbing a tall old-growth tree many times? What can I glean after sitting in one place from sunrise to sunset every season of the year? It makes me ponder the differences between actively or passively receiving information.Read More
We heard from four ecoartspace artists who shared their ideas and artworks about trees and forests: Marie-Luise Klotz, Christopher Lin, Erika Osborne, Leah Wilson. Leah Wilson told the story of “Listening to the Forest,” her installation created for Oregon State University’s College of Forestry.Read More
Challenging perception is too confrontational for my liking and it implies that I: 1) know the viewers’ worldview and 2) have an agenda to change it. Neither is true.
Instead of a challenge, I see my art as an invitation.
Art does not need to include an explicit element of self expression. My creative process is in service to developing a relationship with place rather than expressing myself. My path veers away from science because of my intention. I look toward science for examples of field research processes and systems designed to look at the world objectively. Unlike scientists, I do not set up systems to ensure that whoever asks the question gets consistent answers. I do not aim to answer questions. My intention is to develop a relationship.Read More
You have a very structured and deliberate approach to your art. Do you find that limiting? Many students complain, saying science writing is so formulaic, so boring. But consider haiku. What writing could be more formulaic?Read More
May 20: The beauty and mystery of trees has long been a subject for artists, and more recently, concern for the survival of forests (the lungs of our planet) has been paramount.Read More
Leah Wilson: Stories Told by Water is a solo exhibition running from June 11 – August 20, 2021 at Umpqua Valley Arts in Roseburg, Oregon. The virtual opening reception is June 11 from 5 – 6 PM PST. See you there!Read More
Join us on Wednesday, May 12 at 4 PM for a conversation about the new public art installation “Listening to the Forest,” located in the George W. Peavy Forest Science Center on the OSU campus. The discussion will be preceded by a short video introducing the artwork and will include a live Q&A with the artist Leah Wilson, moderated by Dr. Brooke Penaluna.Read More
I receive many questions during presentations and artist talks. I can’t address them all in the event’s timeframe. This is a good place to reflect:
Q: What motivates your choice in topics?
In conjunction with the October 2021 exhibition at The Arts Center in Corvallis entitled What Will Nature Do? I spoke about collaborating with time in my creative process. Hydrologist Steve Wondzell joined me on April 20, 2021 to provide his perspective of my art from a scientist’s point of view.Read More
I am devoted to the process of integrating specific systems into my projects. Each discrete system builds upon the previous and my empirical knowledge grows alongside the more intangible knowledge. This is the space where systematic processes transform into rituals that may perhaps be spiritual in nature. The resulting wonder gleaned from the ritualistic performance of the system’s procedures feeds a part of my human spirit that systematic research for empirical knowledge alone does not provide – There is an additional intention embedded within the system.Read More
How can my process of meaning making be distinguished from the ordinary process of making? Ritual? Can I accept that? I turn away from ritual now mostly from habit. It echos a repetition of actions that are done so many times they lose their meaning. I question those assertions and assumptions, reactions that have become automatic to almost become the ritual that I habitually reject.Read More
I struggle with seeing how I personally cultivate a reciprocal relationship with the land. Every personal relationship to the land is different and every place also presents different relationships and connections. Reflection brought some clarification.Read More
What would happen if fear and guilt is dropped from conversations about the environment? What would it feel like to think of ourselves as part of nature rather than something separate that we need to fix? What if the land is internalized so that we are in fact, healing ourselves? What if we change perspective to be in relationship with the earth?Read More
Landscapes are ecosystems in fluid motion. They are never static, like in landscape photograph or landscape painting. The only way to be true to the story of the land is to pay attention to the way that it sways through time. Time is the metronome that keeps the beat for the rhythm of place. Without time, there is no rhythm, no music of the land. We feel this rhythm within us when we feel we know a place. It is a part of us.Read More
Perception has a bias for objects. Objects contain information about the world and our surroundings: they can be obstacles – you need to know where they are to avoid them when walking across a room. Objects can be tools; they can be intriguing, beautiful and fascinating; they can be threatening. They frequently demand attention. We see objects for good reasons.
What is an object without all of the space around it, within it, and through it? Can an object be seen without the space? Can we understand something more complexly by switching focus on the spaces that the objects define?
There are things that I have learned from all of the artwork that I have seen over the years. There is artwork that catches my attention immediately. Sometimes I really like it. But soon after I move on and my attention is pointed elsewhere, the artwork dissipates. It is gone from my memory and mind like smoke dissolving in the ether.
The ones that remain intact do not necessarily demand my attention immediately. Sometimes they are the ones that quietly wait. They do not reveal themselves in a flash, all at once and then fade. They do just the opposite: they build slowly.
I wanted to make something fast. I see other artists producing so much work in such a short period of time. I want to do that too. Drawing, I thought, would be fast. How great would it be if I could have 30 new drawings in a month!
But the truth is, I’m slow. I am very slow. Honestly, I wouldn’t be satisfied any other way.