And then again… riffs on forests and time

“New ideas continue to make human beings less and less central, both literally and figuratively.” Lisa Randall, Knocking on Heaven’s Door

My work is a lyrical historiography that uses the landscape as a way of describing who we are, whether it documents where we have been or indicates sublime states of aspiration. I am not alone in determining that we are best described by our surroundings.  Journeys and observations on time and place have been a traditional focus of art from Utagawa Hiroshige’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō in the 18th century to 19th century painters such as Thomas Moran to Sam Richardson’s 20th century depictions of fog in his sculptural Views of Mt. Tamalpais.

Having lived in Brazil, California, New York City, Pullman, WA and Portland among other places, I am inspired by the diversity of places based on specific geographies, cultures and histories. In this series, I use a pastiche of historical images believing that the unique history of a place constitutes how it is seen today. This dialectic between past and present is just one of several that underpin my work. As in my earlier work such as the installation Lookout/Outlook about views from fire lookout towers,this series, And then again… evokes Eastern and Western pictorial traditions, and deliberately juxtaposes painted and printed imagery within each piece.

This series was conceived during a residency at the Sitka Center where I worked with scientists studying the Experimental Forest, land that was set aside in1934 for the study of the temperate costal rain forest. This long-term study of the ecology sheds light on climate change over time. Employing different technologies of representation, I am honoring the mixed forests of Douglas fir, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce from this region, letting them become a stand in for the people that have and will go.  They are pillars and graceful sentries, central to this region’s history and beauty.

Special thanks goes to the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology where I was a resident for three months, The Ford Family Foundation, for a grant for a Sitka resident, and the three-month residency at the Kala Institute in Berkeley, California where I was able to realize the series.

Rita Robillard, 2013