Theodore Payne Gallery
The 116-square-foot Theodore Payne Gallery at our Sun Valley headquarters is open to the public during business hours. Three exhibitions are offered each year, featuring contemporary, modern, and historic artists whose work is influenced by our state flora, landscape, and natural history.
Pat Pickett: Plants + Wind
May 11 through August 17, 2019
Opening reception, Saturday, May 11, 1:00-3:00 pm
with Artist Talk at 2:00 pm. Refreshments will be served.
All of the work in this exhibition was produced using chaparral plants on the grounds of the Theodore Payne Foundation in the late winter of 2018 and early spring of this year.
I’m an artist of the out-of-doors, sensibilities formed during a childhood in the woods and fields of Vermont. I am interested in the physicality and expressiveness of measurable circumstances, and in the accumulation of marks to create drawings.
This work, part of a long-running experimental drawing project, expresses the interaction between the force of the wind and a plant. I attach a pen to end of a branch and position a drawing surface below in order to capture the branch movement when excited by the wind. Patterns emerge that are at once aesthetically pleasing and informative.
It began with wanting to get at the heart of the drawing impulse; an artist’s response to visual stimulus, and the characteristic marks that are the result. And I wanted to understand how I was seeing what I was seeing in a landscape. And what invisible forces are at work? And how do I make pictures of that?
In 1999, I was teaching art history to aeronautical engineering students and explaining the definition of each medium led me to define drawing as – a graphic reaction to phenomena, both seen and unseen, which results in expressive marks. I thought…what if I applied that definition to my invisible-forces-in-the-landscape problem? I looked beyond traditional artistic responses to light and its visual effects, to the environment for examples of forces that would only be made visible by their effects and corresponding response characteristics. For instance, what if trees reacting to the phenomena of wind made a halo of marks in the sky? I imagined visual residues accumulating around the branches of trees swaying in the wind. What if trees could make drawings?
A pen, attached to a wind-driven, oscillating branch tip, is pushed across the surface of paper, panel or photograph. Each drawing is an expression of a particular set of circumstances, including the species, length of time, wind speed, topography, etc.
I began with my backyard pear tree. The following year brought a move to California – to a yard with no trees, but with the realization that the entire state could be my back yard, and there began my interest in using native species. I captured drawings on prepared wooden panels and on paper, using NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) and raw data to chase the wind as I explored the state, and then the country from coast to coast. I took photos of the tree/landscape then returned to capture the drawing directly on the print. Still attempting to realize that “halo of marks.”
I am currently using video to capture the movements of very large trees, groups of trees, trees at a distance, and difficult-to-access trees. With the assistance of predictive analysis software, I trace the paths of the branches as they react to, absorb, and attempt to shed the wind’s energy. The wandering movements of branches produce computer-generated trails, expressing the excitation and accommodation behavior of plants in the wind: the lines illustrate their gust excitation, sway response and wind-loading strategies, and show the range of movement from crown to lower branches.
In 2006, while researching the effects of wind on trees, I discovered the International Wind Effects on Trees Conference, a body of scientists that meets every three years. Each conference serves as an immersive course in the interdisciplinary world of silviculture, wind climatology, wind flow, tree biomechanics, botany, wind damage, forest ecology, storm impacts and risk modeling, wind throw (trees blowing over), stem breakage (tree trunks breaking), tree wind-firmness, etc. Now, constantly immersed in the landscape, I’m better able to “see” invisible forces at work.
Pat Pickett received a BA from Scripps College and an MFA from Hunter College. Her work has been exhibited in New York and California. She has produced several bodies of work based on field expeditions including A Record of the Conditions: 21 Trees, 7 States, 3500 Miles. She has presented her work to four International Scientific Conferences on the Effects of Wind on Trees. Pickett lives and works in Los Angeles. To see and read more about Pickett and her work, visit her website at patpickett.com.
Randal VonBloomberg, 2019 Artist-in-Residence