February 21, 2022
This week we recognize the work of artist Ruth Wallen.
"The magnificence, diversity and delight of the forest cannot be fully expressed in any single image. I’ve chosen the form of a photomontage to provide a series of glimpses, from a variety of scales and perspectives, to evoke both the vibrancy of life and the fragmentation caused from a myriad of ecological challenges."
"What happens when a community turns its back on its waters? Currently much of Escondido Creek, which runs in front of the California Center for the Arts Escondido museum, where this project was first exhibited, is hidden behind chain link fences and obscured by a cement channel. 'Daylighting Escondido Creek Watershed' helps create a watershed moment by encouraging dialogue around what has been hidden—the wonders of the watershed, its changing ecology due to urbanization, globalization and a warming climate, and possible visions for maintaining and rejuvenating the watershed’s future health."
“Walking with Trees” is an ongoing project to be present to the ecological changes in California forests. Over 150 million trees have died in California since 2010 due to urbanization, climate change and new species introduced through global trade. The massive die-off of trees in San Diego started even earlier with the fires of 2003, one of which, the Cedar Fire, was the largest in the state until two years ago. Another huge series of fires ravaged the county in 2007, followed by the introduction of the Goldspotted oak borer in 2008. The impacts of these events are more fully detailed in other recent projects, including Listen to the Trees, Daylighting Escondido Creek Watershed, and Cascading Memorials.
“Listen to the Trees” addresses the impact of climate change on San Diego's ecology. The installation focuses on two trees, the coastal Torrey pine and the Jeffrey pine growing in the inland mountains. Photomontages line the walls, while tree stumps offer visitors a place to sit and contemplate the scene. On one stump, an iPad touch screen displays diagrams of the tree rings of these two species based on historical data and models projecting future climate under differing emissions scenarios.
Ruth Wallen is a multi-media artist and writer whose work is dedicated to encouraging dialogue around ecological and social justice. After working as an environmental scientist, she turned to art to pose questions beyond disciplinary boundaries, address values informing environmental policy, and contribute to the developing field of ecological art. She creates interactive installations, nature walks, web sites, artist books and performative lectures. Her critical writing addresses ecological art and race, gender and visual culture. Active in the border region she was a founding member of the multinational artist collective Las Comadres, past president of the Binational Association for Schools of Communication in the Californias and a Fulbright Lecturer at the Autonomous University of Baja California, Tijuana. Currently she is chair for the MFAIA in Interdisciplinary Arts program at Goddard College. www.ruthwallen.net
Featured Images: ©Ruth Wallen, "Daylighting Escondido Creek Watershed" (2018), "Walking with Trees," "Listen to the Trees" (2016-2017)