The Gund Gallery’s latest exhibition sees the forest for the trees. The Art of Trees transforms the Buchwald-Wright Gallery into a dynamic landscape, with images of both literal and abstract trees dominating the space.
Walking through the exhibition is akin to losing oneself in an ever-changing wood. In the piece Journey by Karen Snouffer, branches hang from the ceiling like stalactites, immersing the viewer. The installation is a tribute to Snouffer’s late father, and Snouffer’s artist statement on the wall invites viewers to contemplate the relationship between natural imagery, life and death.
The colors in the exhibition go beyond the expected greens and browns. Laura McPhee’s Quartered Rocky Mountain Elk, Milky Creek, White Cloud Mountains, Idaho creates an eye-catching contrast of red and white. The image of a bloody animal carcass in the snow is strangely peaceful, with the trees standing guard in the background of the scene.
Other artworks show trees from different angles. Color prints by Edward Burtynsky offer a birds-eye view, while Laura Plagerman’s prints invite the viewer to look up and ahead.
Perhaps the most notable feature of The Art of Trees is how it combines various types of media. Jennifer Steinkamp’s Dervish 9, for example, is a digital projection that twists and turns with artificial life. The diversity of the exhibition makes for a mesmerizing walk-through experience.
The Art of Trees took about a year and a half to curate, and is a collaboration between Gund Gallery Associates and staff and Kenyon faculty, with most of the creative decisions being made by the student curatorial team.
“I’ve worked on the curatorial team since my freshman year, and The Art of Trees is by far the most rewarding project for me,” Rebekah Utian ’22, one of the curatorial team’s leaders, said.
Utian’s favorite part of working on the exhibition was helping with the “Nearby Voices” section. For this part of the project, the curatorial team reached out to five visual and literary artists, all of whom reside in Gambier. The section incorporates some of Gambier’s own natural beauty into the larger exhibition.
“If I’m honest, the best feeling in the world is receiving positive feedback from artists and local community members,” Utian said. “This makes every minute of work worthwhile to me.”
Thanks to the Gund Gallery’s COVID-19 procedures, which include a maximum capacity of 50 people, visitors are likely to explore the exhibition in relative solitude. This enhances the viewing experience, as it allows for a more immersive journey in the vibrant setting.
For those unable to make it to The Art of Trees in person, or simply wishing to learn more about the stories behind the pieces, the Gund Gallery will host a virtual guided tour of the exhibition on Feb. 12 at 4:00 p.m. on its Facebook page.