"Whose Nature? What's Nature?" explores the relationship between people and the natural world, questioning how people view and interpret the wild around them.
For some, nature is an outlet for rest and recreation. But a closer look into peoples' coexistence with nature, whether it's building, consuming or wasting, is another aspect.
"One of the things we try to do is to develop programming from our experience as Westerners. Those of us who live in the community have specific ideas about nature because of where we live," said Kristin Poole, artistic director for The Sun Valley Center for the Arts and curator of "Whose Nature? What's Nature?"
"Whose Nature? What's Nature?" will open Friday, Oct. 27, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. with a special celebration in Ketchum for The Center's 35th anniversary. Exhibiting artist Kim Abeles will give a 6 p.m. walk-through, which will include her site-specific installation, "Sweet Dreams," in The Project Room at The Center, Ketchum.
Abeles combines sculpture, video and digital imagery to create a baby's room inspired by the issues surrounding the landscape of Sun Valley. Her exhibit represents the contradictions that exist in people's attitudes toward nature. Her metaphor of a child's nursery exposes some of the methods used to teach children about nature and includes examples of this perspective from the Wood River Valley.
"Kim's was a specific commissioned piece for the show. She strapped a video camera to a bicycle and rode from Hailey to up north," Poole said. "Her installation features wallpaper she has made of the valley."
"Sweet Dreams" nursery will feature sculptural toys and baby clothes to depict how people expect their children to think about nature. Inspired by politics, culture and the realities of specific places and ideas, Abeles researched urban environments, pollution, feminism, aging, HIV/AIDS and labor with temporary and permanent installations throughout the world.
The exhibit will also examine how people need natural resources and whether they are fit for indiscriminate exploitation.
"Our notion of landscaping is changing dramatically, and we have really imprinted ourselves on landscaping everywhere we go. When we talk about nature, whether or not we exclude or include ourselves as human beings, we are all part of that cycle," Poole said.
"When photographer Robert Glenn Ketchum visited, he had not been here for 20 years, he commented on how many trees there were then and how many more trees there are now," she continued. "There are more houses in the Valley so there are more trees."
Poole said she wants the exhibit to reveal that certain issues about the environment, such as global warming, are not the only ways in which humans have impacted the environment. Through a provocative combination of photographers, authors and performing artists, "Whose Nature? What's Nature?" will challenge western ideals about how landscapes are viewed, the impact of human existence in nature and th existence of raw nature.
"It is an exhibition of 16 contemporary photographers who have taken photographs of industrial and manmade landscapes," Poole said. "The images will knock your socks off. You see it. Then you see it again, and a whole other set of emotions follow."
At The Center gallery in Ketchum, the aerial images of industrial and man-made landscapes of David Maisel and Emmet Gowin will present an alternative, abstract view of traditional landscapes while recognizing the effect of man.
Riveting photography of the Los Angeles River by Anthony Hernandez exposes an urban perspective of man and nature while Edward Burtynsky's images depict the telltale industrial landscapes of human supply and demand.
"Recognizing those of us who live in the valley, we have a very different perception of nature than people who live in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles River is a concrete conduit, which has none of the qualities we identify as a river. If there is a take-away here, I think it is reinforcing that sense of privilege to live in a beautiful place that feeds us, and recognizing we are part of a system and everything that we do affects the system in a positive and negative way," said Poole. "It's part of how we breathe in and out."
The show has no political agenda, but is meant to offer awareness evident in the photography of Kim Keever and Noriko Furunishi, who question the ownership of land, manifest destiny and consumerism. Depicting land use, images not only present history but also offer an insight to the future.
"These photographs are from all over the world with subtle and underlying message of consumerism," Poole said.
All the photographs are beautiful and, according to Poole, if there is a historic agenda the exhibition represents how photography has really changed.
"Typically photography scale is 16x20. This is huge in scale, saturated in color and many of them feel like abstract paintings more than landscapes," she said. "It helps people see in a different way."
There will be photography workshops and classes, which will allow for people to take cameras. For more information, call 726-9491 or visit sunvalleycenter.org.