Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Art addresses extinction

Center's new project investigates man's impact on biodiversity

Express Staff Writer

Walton Ford's "Coups" 1999, is part of the Center's new exhibition. Ford's work blends depictions of natural history with political commentary. Each painting is as much a tutorial in flora and fauna as it is as a satire on society's wrongdoing.

"Biodiversity: Order, Consumption & Man" is the newest in a long line of thought-provoking multidisciplinary projects staged by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum. Addressing the relationship between man and his environment, the show opens Friday, Jan. 27, and runs until March 25.

"This is a topic of interest and relevancy to all of us in the Wood River Valley—indeed, to people everywhere," says Kristin Poole, The Center's artistic director. "It's possible that our current society is writing its own extinction by causing irreversible changes to the earth and its complex ecosystems.

"We hope this project helps illustrate how science can inspire art, and how the creative act can expand our understanding of the natural world."

At the heart of the project is the exhibition in the Center's gallery. Works by Isabella Kirkland, Richard Barnes and Walton Ford explore how science, ecology and politics inform art.

Kirkland's explicit species paintings, called "TAXA," will be presented together for the first time. The series is the result of years of research and study at natural history museums around the world, which depict nearly 400 species whose existence has been compromised by man's influence. Kirkland will talk at the Center's gallery on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m.

Barnes' "Animal Logic" series touches on the relationships between nature and history and how humans have collected and catalogued it. His photographs focus on animal skeletons and taxidermy specimens, taken at natural history museums. By documenting his subjects within the confines of museums, Barnes poses questions about the relationship between natural and artificial environments.

Ford's life-sized Audubon-inspired paintings and prints pose thought-provoking questions about the renowned naturalist-painter. His work acts as a social and political commentary, cloaked as it is in the guise of natural history. Extinction, consumerism, cultural mis-connections, world politics, natural history and the grotesque are all repeating elements in his complex works.

The exhibit in the Center's gallery aims to raise questions of sustainability, dependency and domination, issues that will be debated during events and lectures presented throughout the project.

Dr. E. O. Wilson, one of the world's leading experts on biodiversity, will lecture on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood, Ketchum. The lecture costs $10 for Center members and $15 for nonmembers. A Harvard professor and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Wilson will draw on ideas from his best-selling book, "The Future of Life," in which he makes a passionate plea for a new approach to the management and protection of our ecosystem.

Local conservationist for The Nature Conservancy of Idaho, Trish Klahr, presents a talk titled "Local Biodiversity" on Thursday, Feb. 9, at 7pm, in the Center's gallery, which is free of charge. The director of science for the Nature Conservancy's Idaho chapter since 1995, Klahr will explore local concerns related to the global issue of biodiversity.

Other events associated with the multidisciplinary project include free docent tours of the gallery exhibition every Tuesday at 2 p.m. A "Family Day," on Sunday, Feb. 12, from 3-5 p.m. at the Center, will find parents and children recording observations of natural history in field journals while uncovering clues from the past in a simulated archaeological dig that will be set up at the Center. Irina Gronborg hosts two drawing classes, "Botanical Drawing" ($150 members, $200 for non-members) and "Drawing for Beginners" ($75 members, $125 non-members), Feb. 15--17. There will also be a spring break workshop with Judy A. Hall-Griswold, March 27--30 for grade 2nd through 5th ($40 members, $65 non-members), where kids will spend the week drawing, painting and exploring nature.

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