Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Gem State Exhibition Focuses on Idaho’s Rich Mineral Wealth and Landscapes
Brad Johnson’s “Sliced Bread Loaf” evokes thoughts of Bread Loaf Rock, which was visible from Highway 55 near Horseshoe Bend until the highway was rerouted.
Monday, September 21, 2020


Idaho’s geology and that of the American West will be the focus of a new visual arts exhibition that will open Wednesday, Sept. 23, at Sun Valley Museum of Art.

“Gem State” is the museum’s new BIG IDEA project. And it will include a Union Pacific train carrying Idaho landscapes through the museum, as well as hands-on activities such as a rock exploration station, books and maps on the geology of Idaho and a space to create your own landscape.

The origins of Idaho’s nickname the Gem State is unclear but it likely alludes to the state’s abundant mineral resources from silver and lead to semiprecious and precious stones, noted Kristin Poole, the museum’s artistic director.

Indeed, one of the largest diamonds ever found in the United States—nearly 20 carats—was discovered near McCall. The state produces 240 different minerals, including opal in eastern Idaho, garnet and topaz. The star garnet is found only in Idaho and India.

And Idaho is the top silver mining state in the United States, with more than a fifth of the silver mined in the United States produced here, including the Wood River Valley.

“As we experience a time of profound change in our individual lives, there is value in reflecting on geologic time and in celebrating what those processes have meant for our state,” Poole added.

The exhibition will run through Dec. 31. Walk-in visitors are welcome between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays with face masks and social distancing required. Three evening exhibition tours will be offered on Oct. 1, Oct. 29 and Dec. 3.

The visual arts exhibition associated with Gem State features the work of four contemporary artists:

  • Mari Andrews is a Northern California-based artist who works with natural materials, including stones and minerals, to create sculptures, two-dimensional works, and installations. Like much of her work, Andrews’s Coalgems, small pieces of anthracite that she carves and polishes, suggest the idea of transformation through time. Collected Topography, small lead aprons filled with soil collected from different sites around the world, reveals Andrews’s interest in the geology of place.


  • Blane De St. Croix is well known for his large-scale sculptures and installations that recreate different kinds of geological and environmental sites of political or social importance, with a focus on the dramatic effects of climate change. At SVMoA’s invitation, De St. Croix participated in a residency in the fall of 2019, visiting geological sites around southern Idaho. Inspired by the diversity of geological formations he encountered and the history of Sun Valley as a Union Pacific destination, De St. Croix has created a model Union Pacific train pulling cars that carry small sculptural models of the sites he visited during his residency.


  • Cynthia Ona Innis has responded to geological sites throughout the American West for a number of years. Working with acrylic paint, ink and fabric, she creates striated, abstract artworks that suggest the collision of tectonic plates at fault lines, geothermal or volcanic activity, mountains and canyons. Innis made a number of pieces in this exhibition after a road trip through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Others examine sites in her home state of California.
  • Brad Johnson, who lives in Trout Lake, Wash., made several trips around the state, spending time at such sites as Hells Canyon and City of Rocks, along with abandoned quarries and remediated archaeological sites. Johnson uses photography and digital media to create works on paper that are sculptural in nature, using relief to evoke the textures and surfaces of the places he depicts.


Gem State-related activities:

  • ADULT CLASSGeology Field Trip & Hike “Geology of the East Fork” with Paul Link: Saturday, September 12, 9 a.m. -2 p.m.
  • Craft Series Workshop“Gemstone Rings” with Lisa Horton: Saturday, September 19, 1-5:30pm
  • Craft Series Workshop“Treasure Necklaces” with Lisa Horton: Sunday, September 27, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • FREE EVENING EXHIBITION TOUR: Thursday, October 1, 4:30 & 5:30 p.m.
  • FREE AFTERNOON ART for Families with Kids Ages 5–12: Friday, October 16, 2:30 & 3:30 p.m.
  • FREE AFTERNOON ART for Families with Kids Ages 5–12: Friday, October 23, 2:30 & 3:30 p.m.
  • FREE EVENING EXHIBITION TOUR: Thursday, October 29, 4:30 & 5:30 p.m.
  • FREE AFTERNOON ART for Families with Kids Ages 5–12: Friday, October 30, 2:30 & 3:30 p.m.
  • ADULT CLASSA THOUSAND WORDS "Guided Writing About the Art You See" with Sarah Sentilles: Wednesday, November 4, 6-7:30 p.m.
  • FREE Evening Exhibition Tours: Thursday, December 3, 4:30 & 5:30 p.m.


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