Siyeh Pass, from the series Naturalists from the Long Now, by Ian van Coller
“Part of my purpose as an artist during climate change is to bring empathy to the natural world, the non-human world,” Sitka artist-in-residence and spring Keynote Speaker Ian van Coller reflects at the conclusion of his May talk, Naturalists of the Long Now, which features a series of collaborations with climate scientists and ecologists. In this ongoing project, Van Coller creates fine art photographs of scientists’ research sites and then invites them to annotate them, writing directly on the images.
Van Coller’s work captivates, drawing me in and inviting me to look closer, both at what the scientists choose to share and at our human impact.
“I think a great deal about… beauty in relationship to catastrophe,” Van Coller elaborates. “Beauty and aesthetics and the idea of the sublime are important to me as a way to bring in an audience. There is a lot of value in beauty, especially when we are losing so much.”
For Sitka community members in the greater Portland area, works from Van Coller’s Naturalists of the Long Now series will be on view at Blue Sky Gallery during June, including an in-person talk with the artist on June 2. For those living on or visiting the Oregon coast, additional works by Van Coller are on view now through June 25 at jdc Fine Art in Gleneden Beach in the Salishan Marketplace.
Another opportunity born out of Sitka’s partnership with Blue Sky Gallery – and a highlight within this year’s workshop season – is Sitka’s upcoming Collaging Photos from Nature workshop, co-taught by 2021 Blue Sky photographer-in-residence Kelda Van Patten. Participants and their cameras will explore the surrounding forest, creating collages from their images and then re-photographing them. Akin to Van Coller, I love the way Van Patten’s photographic constructs explore human impact and alteration, challenging me to consider how I romanticize nature and inviting me to un-blur the lines between what is natural and what is artificial. We are thrilled to have recent residents like Van Patten returning to Sitka to teach this summer.
If your studio practice is more analog than digital, 2021 Sitka artist in residence Jenene Nagy will teach an Advanced Topics in Drawing workshop in June – another highlight of our summer season and an opportunity to deepen your relationship with drawing. Some of Nagy’s own works on paper are large-scale, built from patterns of fine lines that invite the viewer to look harder and step closer. Don’t let the word “advanced” intimidate you. This workshop is ideal for anyone with an active drawing practice; no formal training or exhibition record required.
These are just two of nearly 100 small-format workshops offered this May through October at Sitka. Whether for beginning makers or people with an active practice, what I love most about Sitka’s workshops is how nurturing and freeing they are.
You will find more information about these upcoming June and July workshops and our Spring-Summer 2022 COVID-19 policy in this newsletter. The full 2022 catalog is available online.
As I write this journal, national news out of Texas is breaking. In my shock and grief, Van Coller’s insights on the creative tensions between beauty, catastrophe, art and empathy take on new meaning.
Grappling with the public health, humanitarian and environmental challenges of our time, the heightened sense of fragility I feel is balanced with gratitude for Sitka as a center for reflection, communion and creation. Like Van Coller’s work, I hope our time together as a community this spring and summer is sublime, inviting us into deeper relationship with the natural world and strengthening our belief in the power of art to foster empathy.
Looking forward to a summer of art and togetherness,