The relationship between humans and nature is a large part of the discussion in the third installment of San Juan Islands Museum of Art “Dialogues from the Forest.” With the artists all being from the Pacific Northwest, island landscapes are well represented.
“I can’t work anywhere else,” said Jean Behnke, print maker and sculptor, of her Lopez home.
“Dialogues from the Forest” opens Sept. 16, at 11 a.m. and runs through Nov. 6. SJIMA is open Thursdays through Mondays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Oct. 1 when it will switch to Friday – Monday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is $10, members of the museum, and ages under 18 are free. Every Monday is pay what you can.
The exhibitions include “From Rocky Outcroppings,” a collaboration of work from Behnke, Lopez sculptor Michael Peterson, and photographer Peter de Lory; “Arboreal Beauty,” a collection of work from painter, sculptor and designer Kathy Gore Fuss; and “Burnt,” features the massive sculptures of Lee Imonen. Imonen’s work can be found throughout Oregon, with sculptures at the Portland Art Museum, Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs and City of Eugene Public Arts Commission Delta Ponds in Eugene, as well as Eastern Oregon University, and in Salem, Oregon. Sculpture, Sunset and American Craft magazines have also picked up his story.
Nature plays a significant roll in all of these artists’ personal lives. Gore Fuss, a “plein air” painter, which Gore Fuss says, is just a fancy way of saying outdoors, and working in outside has clearly benefited her work and her pursuit of a connection with nature. From her home in Olympia Washington, she has watched as forests around her grow, are logged and trucked to Olympia’s port where they are shipped to China and Japan. The park she frequents she said, has been logged three times, the forest is not old growth. Gore Fuss, nevertheless, considers herself lucky to be living at a time when the city declared the area a park.
Peterson remarked that it was the natural world that attracted him and his wife to the islands, drawing him toward creating the sculptures he makes today. While he uses woods native to the Pacific Northwest, the local Madrona tree is his favorite to work with due to the way the wood accepts pigment and other types of treatment.
“It develops these interesting textures all on its own,” Peterson said.
Behnke also attributes her love of nature with being an artist. As a child, she spent hours exploring the world around her, and creating art was simply an extension of that.
“Being an artist was never a question,” Behnke said, adding that it was during an intense art school class in Sun Valley Idaho that she met de Lory.
Born on Cape Cod, de Lory also had an early fascination with the outside world and his natural surroundings. He turned to photography he said, because he is a visual person, and did not take to drawing and creating with his hands. While he lives in Seattle, he visits Lopez often, and holds it close to his heart.
“It’s a special place and you don’t want to lose that,” he said.
Some of the Behnke’s latest pieces have a subtlety to them because they are reflecting on just that, things that are being lost, disappearing, and she is curious how viewers will respond to them, adding that “you need to take time looking at them.”
Imonen’s sculpture series also attempts to put into a visual perspective the relationship and dependence on natural materials, portraying a message about consumption and resources, according to a SJIMA press release. Much of Gore Fuss’ exhibit, “Aborial Beauty” addresses human impact on the environment as well, in what she calls a balance of wealth and beauty. The Pacific Northwest, she explains has an enormous wealth of resources, trees, fish, and people who depend on them.
“How much do we need to harvest, how much is enough, and how much do we need to think about preserving?” Gore Fuss asks.
For more information, visit sjima.org.