Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Get in touch with the forest

Sun Valley Center for the Arts to host a free guided tour of new exhibition

Gerri Sayler’s work “Billow” uses pipe cleaners to simulate smoke rising from a fire. It is part of the “Forests, Foraging and Fires” exhibit at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts..
Courtesy photo

    Art enthusiasts can enjoy a free guided tour of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts exhibit “Forests, Foraging and Fires” on Thursday, Oct. 16, at 5:30 p.m. at The Center in Ketchum.
    The tour will include complimentary wine.
    Kristin Poole, The Center’s artistic director, and Courtney Gilbert, curator of visual arts, said the exhibit has been in the making for several years.
     “We’ve been talking about doing a project about forests and fires since the 2007 Castle Rock Fire,” Gilbert said. “The Beaver Creek Fire confirmed to us that our human relationship to the forest, particularly in the American West, is important in so many ways.”
    The forest provides so much to the American people—economic development from its resources, edible and medicinal plants, recreation, and a place for spiritual and literal refuge. “Forests, Foraging and Fires” explores all of these facets through the work of contemporary artists.
    Artists participating in the exhibit include Anne Siems, Catherine Chalmers, Shannon Durbin, Spencer Finch, Eirik Johnson, William D. Lewis, David Nash and Gerri Sayler. The pieces in the exhibition are as diverse as the forest they represent, including multimedia installations, paintings, sculptures and photos.
    “Everyone should come see the exhibition,” Gilbert said. “In this valley, we all interact with the forest in different ways. And there is such a range of artwork, from photography to an installation made from pipe cleaners, that everyone will find an artwork that they relate to.”
    Idaho-based fiber artist Gerri Sayler created of one of the patrons’ favorite pieces, “Billow.”  
    “We invited Gerri Sayler here in May to visit areas affected by the Beaver Creek Fire,” Gilbert said. “She was struck by people’s stories about the impact of the smoke and how heavy it was in the valley.”
    “Billow” is an installation made from 20,000-plus black, white and gray pipe cleaners. It rises from the floor of the gallery and hovers in the space just like a plume of smoke rising from a fire.
    Another work of particular note is Catherine Chalmers’ video “We Rule.” Chalmers formed a unique collaboration with leafcutter ants from Central America. Over the course of four minutes, the ants carry letters cut from leaves to spell out the words “We Rule.”
    “Ants have eerie parallels, on many levels, to homo sapiens, and this is one of the main reasons I am drawn to them,” Chalmers said. “I am inspired by what the ants naturally do and work with their behavior to create my artwork.”
    A central idea the exhibition broaches is that the forest is still a place of mystery and magic.
    “When you think about all the fairy tales set in the forest, or about the way Shakespeare used it as a setting for plays like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ it’s clear that it’s long been seen as a place where magical things can happen—people can transform, animals can talk, fairies and other fantastic creatures exist,” Gilbert said.
    Paintings from Anne Siems explore this theme in the exhibition.
    The curators hope the works in the exhibit will transform perspectives and make clearer the vast role that forests play in our lives.
    “Forests, Foraging and Fires” will be up through Nov. 12 at The Center.
    For more information, visit

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