Sunday, August 9, 2020
SVCA Events Take us Back to Nature-Thoreau’s Nature
William Lamson’s “Solarium” is a digital Chromogenic print of a site specific installation at Storm King Art Center.
Monday, January 20, 2020


Henry David Thoreau kept a 2-million-word journal for 24 years, recording his observations about the fluctuating depths of Walden Pond and the destruction of the indigenous wild apple species near his cabin on Walden Pond.

On Thursday and Friday a modern-day Henry David Thoreau captivated the attention of a hundred-plus Hemingway STEAM  School middle schoolers and even more Wood River Middle School students as he described how he had spent five months walking across America from Rockaway Beach, N.Y., to Rockaway Beach, Ore., recording his observations of Amish buggies and roads that ended in a lake or a farmer’s field.

Then, Matt Green described how he had embarked on a journey to walk every street and path in New York City, where he has recorded what he has seen from a bicycle hanging 40 feet off the ground in tree branches to the grasses that now grow over the impermeable plastic liner that now encases the world’s largest landfill.

This still life was painted by Wood River Valley artist Sarah Bird, who will teach a class titled “Finding the Transcendental in Still Life Painting” in mid-February.

“Moments of discovery,” Green called them. “Not necessarily tourist attractions. Just beautiful little moments.”

Green, whose eight-plus year journey walking the streets of New York is told in the documentary film “The World Before Your Feet,” provided the kick-off to the Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ new BIG IDEA project “The Bottomlessness of a Pond: Transcendentalism, Nature and Spirit.”

The visual arts portion opened Friday at The Center in Ketchum.

“Matt is perfect to feature in conjunction with a project concerning Hendry David Thoreau because not only does he spend so much time  out in nature but he spends so much time noticing what’s around him,” said Kristine Bretall, director of performing arts for The Center. “And, despite all his walking, he’s never been on snowshoes before!”

The visual arts exhibition, which runs through March 11, asks such questions as: What is the 21st century experience of the spiritual in nature? How do we understand our own personal relationship with the natural world? What lessons does the Transcendentalism movement of the mid-19th century offers today?

The Transcendentalist movement was comprised of such men and women as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau and journalist Margaret Fuller, who advocated for such humanitarian causes as women’s suffrage, better conditions for workers, abolition, progressive education and religious purpose. They pressed for a personal knowledge of God, rejecting materialism in favor of spiritual experiences to be found in nature.

The concept was perhaps best embodied in Thoreau’s retreat to Walden pond, which was then believed to be bottomless. There, he spent a year living in isolation focusing on the rewards of a life lived in harmony with nature.

“At this technology-saturated moment, when creating time to pause, breathe and just be in awe of the world is increasingly difficult, it seems appropriate to look again at the approach of the Transcendentalists, who advocated a retreat from the material world in favor of a divine encounter with nature,” said Kristin Poole, artistic director of The Center. “Re-examining their ideas may encourage us to take that pause—to stop and look and, perhaps, find that a deep breath on a crisp Idaho day fills more than just our lungs.”

The visual arts exhibition features the work of six contemporary artists:

  • Richard Barnes has long been interested in the role photography plays in documenting criminal evidence. He has contributed four photographs of the cabin once inhabited by Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber. Kaczynski modeled the cabin on Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond after deciding to try to live self-sufficiently in Montana.
  • Lesley Dill creates sculptures and collages made of wire, fabric, muslin, newspaper and glass that create relationships between language and the human body. The works in this exhibition include fragments of the poetry of Emily Dickinson, who was affiliated with the Transcendentalists, and a piece inspired by novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, who initially embraced Transcendentalism before rejecting its utopian idealism.
  • Spencer Finch created “Walden (surface/depth)” out of rope, cloth, and twine and 298 small watercolors after learning about Thoreau’s 1846 survey of Walden Pond. Finch actually received permission to perform that survey again, using an electronic depth meter and making watercolor swatches matching the surface of the water at each of 700 soundings.
  • William Lanson created a floating camera obscura inside a 1:5 scale model of Thoreau’s cabin to record a video of the landscape as it passed along the walls of the cabin. It features images of trees, clouds and sunlight reflected on water, changing in relationship to the movement of the tiny cabin as it floated around the pond. The exhibition will also include photographs of Lamson’s Solarium modeled on Thoreau’s cabin with each pan made from sugar cooked to different temperatures and sandwiched between panes of glass.
  • Jane Marshing created five prints titled “Ice Out at Walden” inspired by Thoreau’s observations of nature of Walden, including his annual notations of the day the lake’s winter ice cover disappeared. She juxtaposes it against measurements collected by a contemporary Concord weather station.
  • Claire Sherman, known for her works placing viewers in tangles of dense tree branches or inside the mouths of caves with views to the night sky, has created two large-scale paintings and several smaller works.

    Admission to see the exhibit is free from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

    Free exhibition tours will be offered at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 13 and March 5. The exhibition will be part of a free Gallery Walk from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 14.

    Other events associated with this BIG IDEA:

  • Tim Price, former Sun Valley Community School teacher, will offer a Creative Jump-In “On Being Thoreau” at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 and 29 and Feb. 5 and 12. The workshops will explore how Walden Pond afforded Thoreau a simple deliberate life and the understanding that “to be awake is to be alive.” Cost: $40 for Center members and $50 for nonmembers ( or 208-726-9491)
  • Cal Millar, a licensed acupuncturist, will offer a Creative Jump-In titled “Diving Deep into Winter blues; Healing through Nature” at 6 p.m. Jan. 23. The art-based, self-healing class will be held at The Center in Hailey and will revolve around the winter water element founded upon Chinese medicine’s five elements of nature. Students will use paper collage techniques with the corresponding winter color palette. Cost is $40 for Center members and $50 for nonmembers ( or 208-726-9491.)
  • Company of Fools will offer a FREE theater reading titled “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” at 7 p.m. Jan. 23 at The Liberty Theatre in Hailey.
  • A Teen Workshop—Landscape Photography with a Twist, will be offered by fine art photographer Wendel Wirth from 9 a.m. to noon Jan. 25 at The Center in Hailey. Participants will learn a brief history of photography, what landscape photographs consist of and different ways to look at a landscape. Students will then be given time to shoot landscapes in the neighborhood using smartphones. They will then edit their photos, leaving with one to three prints suitable for framing. Cost is $10. Reservations are required at or 208-726-9491.
  • A FREE Family Day revolving around Nature Play will be offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 25 at The Center. Families will create nature prints to take home, enjoy music by local music students, and take part in story time and games that connect to the art in the museum.
  • A FREE Theatre Reading, “Tiny Beautiful Things” by “Wild” author Cheryl Strayed, who is keynoting a sold out lecture on Jan. 31, will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 1 and 3 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey. The reading follows the candid sometimes brutally honest exchange between an anonymous online advice columnist and real-life followers.
  • Wood River Valley artist Sarah Bird will offer a Creative Jump-In “Finding the Transcendental in Still Life Paint” at 9 a.m. Feb. 10-14.
  • The film, “Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf,” will be shown at 4:30 and 7 p.m. March 5 at the Magic Lantern Cinemas in Ketchum.
  • A Self Care Workshop with Jordyn Dooley will be offered from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in partnership with Sawtooth Botanical Garden.





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