Artists Remembering the Forest: Past, Present, and Future

Sep 18, 2020


Gary Braasch. Ecola State Park. "Forest Beams."
Credit Gary Braasch

This is Sandy Brown Jensen, and you’re listening to Viz City, KLCC’s arts review program. This has been a really rough week, folks. Ten percent of all Oregonians have been evacuated; hundreds have lost everything. The rest of us have been barricaded in our homes for a week under a miasma of smoke and ash.

By the time this show is broadcast, changing winds may have released us back into the working world. Yet the fires across our state are still devouring and laying to waste our most cherished source of Oregonian identity--our forests.

Susan Applegate. "Even With Broken Branch, We Look Toward Morning"
Credit By permission of Susan Applegate

In so many ways, our forests are the heart and soul of what it means to be an Oregonian. Our artists have always turned to the forest to deepen their thoughts. Susan Applegate is well known locally for her magnificent “Trees of Home”; and was it only last January we were engrossed with Claire Burbridge’s detailed, eight foot high tree drawings at the Jordan Schnitzer exhibition called “Pathways to the Invisible”? And Bob Keefer’s altered photographs of trees rolling off the wall onto the floor?

Bob Keefer. Altered Photograph. "Three Pines."
Credit By permission of Bob Keefer

In this quiet in the midst of the storm, I turned to my own library to enter again into the green woods. One of the most important books published back in 1988 in the middle of the old growth fight, was Secrets of the Old Growth Forest. David Kelly wrote it, and the genius photographer was Gary Braasch.

Gary photographed the ferny groves, a stream that had flowed from a cedar forest undisturbed for 4000 years. A jewel green beetle, a centipede curled protectively around her eggs, hemlocks in the mist. He photographed that green forest light that slows us down to what nature writer John Daniels called, “The slow, looping dance through time.”

Gary Braasch "Northern Spotted Owl"
Credit Gary Braasch















For thousands of acres of our Oregon forests, wildfire has stopped time. As shock and trauma shudders through this human world, so does it, too, through the ravaged forest. The rains will come, filling the waterways with ash and debris. If we are lucky, there will be snow. And slowly, over the long sweep of the resuming clock of the land, the forest may come back, though no one now alive will ever again see it as it was.

It is our artists who will leave behind a record of our forests as they once were, as they are now, and as they re-emerge in the looping dance through time to come.

Cover of "Secrets of the Old Growth Forest" by David Kelly and Gary Braasch
Credit Sandy Brown Jensen

Viz City is co-produced by Terry Way and Sandy Brown Jensen.