Stories Told by Water

Stories Told by Water - McKenzie - Leah WIlson

Stories Told By Water

Stories Told by Water is an ongoing project creating deep and evolving relationships with Oregon’s forests, rivers, and streams. Countless miles on the river and trail have shaped me. My decisions and actions are based on time spent interacting with the land and water. And now devastating fires have made many of our rivers and forests almost unrecognizable. Stories Told by Water is a reciprocal process between story teller and listener to find new ways to construct an evolving relationship with the land’s rivers and streams.

Artist Talk: Stories Told by Water

This talk was given August 5, 2021 in conjunction with my solo exhibition at Umpqua Valley Arts. In this talk, I give context to Stories Told by Water and I introduce a project in progress in my studio, started at my July 2021 residency at Pine Meadow Ranch in Sisters, Oregon.

Stories Told by Water: Drawings

Stories Told by Water-McKenzie-Leah Wilson

Stories Told By Water: McKenzie, charcoal, pastel, ink, mica on paper, 22 x 30 in., 2021, Leah Wilson

Stories Told by Water - Lookout Creek - Leah Wilson

Stories Told By Water: Lookout Creek, charcoal, pastel, walnut ink, mica on paper, 22 x 30 in., 2021, Leah Wilson

A Guest in a House Made of Fire and Water

Monday, September 7, 2020 was a hot, windy day. On the evening of September 7th, the Holiday Farm Fire ignited and the McKenzie watershed burst into flames. The next morning was one of the darkest mornings that I have ever experienced. The black was so dense that it seemed to absorb all light. The fire burned 173,393 acres including 431 residences. The town of Blue River near the HJ Andrews Forest Experimental Forest is now gone. 

I started creating artwork from the Andrews Forest in the McKenzie River watershed in 2012, setting the intention of developing a strong, personal relationship with the place through art making that would progress through my lifetime. I have worked closely with ecologists conducting field research at the Andrews Forest, I gathered reference material from the forest, and I even climbed an old-growth Douglas-fir tree many times as I researched light and color for artwork. This place has been my collaborator for the creation of many projects.

Now eight years into my experiment, this devastating fire has shown me that my idea worked. I have succeeding in developing a strong, personal connection to that place. It was heartbreaking to know what was happening and that the Andrews and the surrounding area, including the McKenzie Watershed were endangered. I dreaded that my artwork would become a eulogy rather than the long-term relationship that I intended it to be.

Three watersheds that include stands of ancient forest in the Andrews have burned. I have worked with 2 of these watersheds for previous projects, most notably Solstices & Equinoxes. Now I am drawn back to engage with them once again, this time in a more deep and prolonged way. It will be some time before anyone is permitted back into these watersheds. I have started this new project with a prelude. I will continue create preludes until I can enter the burned watersheds to engage with them directly. 

Let's Keep in Touch!

Studio News

Have the stories sent to your inbox

Studio News will provide you with a glimpse into the art making process. It's the next best thing to visiting me in my studio.

Your support is important to me and your information will never be shared.

Send an Email

Write to me: Ask a question, send a comment, or just say hello. I'd love to hear from you!

Phone:  (541) 556-8253

Studio News & Events

Sometimes I send out postcards... Add your address in the postcard field if you would like a fun piece of mail every now and then.

Thank you! You have successfully subscribed. Your support means a lot to me!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This