(A Gray Space Project with Kate Ali)
LEAH WILSON & KATE ALI
HULT CENTER PLAZA
JULY 27, 2018 – AUGUST 3, 2018
How do we adapt to radical change? What does regeneration look like? How do we foster positive growth in our struggling populations? How can we improve/impact our social and cultural landscape to foster a sense of belonging and hope for the future? These questions are being considered at micro and macro levels across our city, state, country and global community, from Eugene’s art community to Federal land management and international policies.
Fire is the springboard for growth. It has been used as a tool because of its regenerative powers in land management and political struggles alike. Last August there was a sense that the whole country was on fire either physically or emotionally. The power and speed in which nature regenerates in the wake of a burnt landscape is both a miraculous and inspiring phenomenon. It is a needed reminder that we are part of a cycle, one that has happened before, will come again and the sooner we rebuild and foster regrowth, the better.
With the increased frequency and intensity of fires that are sweeping through the forests of the West every summer, the local ecology becomes a metaphor for our institutions that are currently undergoing an alarming rate of dismantling, as if destructive fires are roaring through our sociopolitical foundations as we know it, just as they are roaring through our forests.
The field of ecological restoration is needing to face new questions and solutions as global warming changes our climate and drastically affects our ecosystems. It is no longer possible to look exclusively to the past for a model that informs us how to rebuild ecosystems as they existed historically. Because of the rapid changes our natural ecosystems, institutions, and communities are experiencing, looking primarily to the past we would only be rebuilding ecosystems that would have a very low probability of survival. We need to project into the future to the ecosystems that will exist decades from now. We need to ask salient questions about how we want out future to look, what can we salvage that will be resilient enough to survive rapid change, and how do we come together to regenerate healthy ecosystems, institutions and communities that may look entirely different from what we are accustomed to seeing.
To begin her inquiry and research, she consulted ecologist Fred Swanson from the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest to look for a plant that is commonly found growing after fires in the forests of the Cascade Mountains. Ceanothus velutinus, commonly known as snowbrush, has small, hard seeds that can wait centuries for a fire. They need the high heat of a fire to break open the shells of the seed to begin germination. Once they are established, their roots swell in collaboration with bacteria, to form nodules. These nodules take nitrogen from the atmosphere and bring it to the soil to help create the foundation of a healthy new forest. The hanging forms in Metanoia Catalyst are taken from the forms of the nitrogen fixing nodules of the Ceanothus velutinus bush.
After she began creating the nodule shapes out of beeswax, Leah Wilson traveled to a burn area in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest to collect roots taken from a fallen Douglas fir tree root ball, and burned limbs on the forest floor that were already supporting new life through the process of rotting. The roots from the fallen tree form the ceiling area of Metanoia Catalyst. The limbs are placed underneath on the floor and also outside of the structure of Metanoia Catalyst. They begin to form the conceptualized cycle of regeneration beginning with the destruction from fire, through the beginning stages of regeneration through nitrogen fixing plants that prepare the soil for new growth and rotting wood that supports vast amounts of life in its death.
Leah Wilson and Kate Ali also visited Doak Creek Native Plant Nursery to find native plants that can be found in various stages of forest regeneration and forest succession. Lupine and Manzanita were planted in Metanoia Catalyst on Day 1. They were chosen because of their prevalence after a fire. In addition, Lupine is a nitrogen fixing legume and Manzanita seeds, like Ceanothus velutinus seeds, open after a fire. Pearly Everlasting whose seeds also open after a fire, was added to Metanoia Catalyst on day 3. Later in the week, Maiden Hair Fern and eventually young Douglas fir were added to represent later stages of regeneration.
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