Solstices and Equinoxes

The cellular structure of Oregon’s iconic tree, the Douglas-fir, is the foundation for the composition of Attention-Devotion. The rhythmic cellular pattern helps to enable the trees’ ability to grow to great heights, becoming the pillars of the Pacific Northwest’s cathedral-like old growth forests.

To better understand the significant verticality of the forest, I climbed a tree named the Discovery Tree, a roughly 200 ft. tall old growth tree located in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. The Discovery Tree is strung with multicolored cables, bands, and small whirring devices that constantly measure the air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, moisture of the leaves, and the swelling and shrinking of the tree’s diameter. I climbed that tree to see the quality of light change from the forest floor to the forest canopy, to hear the sound of the forest amplified with altitude, to smell the sap, bark and leaves directly in front of my face as I breathe hard to climb to the canopy, and to feel the wind sway the top of the gigantic tree that feels so firm and solid at the forest floor, but in the canopy moves like a boat floating on waves. I climbed the Discovery Tree to know the tree in a way that data cannot convey.

Attention-Devotion creates a contemplative visual experience of light, color, shadow, and rhythm. Through the layered cut-outs, the experience of viewing the artwork changes based on the vantage point of the viewer and the quality of light. Color is experienced, if at all, only as subtle reflected color based on color samples of the light that I collected during my climb.

The bottom edge of each layer of Attention-Devotion is created from concurrent data connecting canopy processes to the understory, collected from the Discovery Tree at the time that I climbed.

The title of Attention-Devotion was inspired by a quote by Mary Oliver in her collection of essays, Upstream: “Attention is the beginning of devotion”. I read this quote after I had climbed the tree, and after hours of paying close, tedious attention to the shape of each individual cell. The simple line caused me to pause, to pay careful attention to the words on the page, and to realize that the careful attention that I pay to that specific tree began a change within me that inevitably led to devotion.


Attention-Devotion, Birch, acrylic and resin, 47 in. x 62 in., Leah Wilson

Birch, acrylic and resin, 47 in. x 62 in., 2019

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