Challenging convention: New landscape exhibit explores the interactions between humans and their environment

Published 6:24 am Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Community Arts Center

On Friday evening, more than 100 people gathered to celebrate the opening of the Community Arts Center’s fall exhibits. The Arts Center is concurrently featuring two shows. In the Grand Hall and upstairs hallway is “Horizon: Contemporary Landscape.” The second-floor Farmers National Bank Gallery houses “Reflections” by The Gathering Artists.

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The “Horizon: Contemporary Landscape” exhibit is an annual juried show, now in its ninth year. The 2018 exhibit showcases artwork by 26 artists from 10 states, all of whom challenge conventional interpretations of landscape art in their technique, perspective and approach.

Artist Ashley Carlson has lived in rural Idaho for most of her life and says she is heavily influenced by the western landscape.

“My work includes vast, often surreal depictions of the outdoor environment,” says Carlson. “Figures are rendered faceless, representing the anonymity and isolation of those who reside in rural America. I feel that the ambiguous and formal way that I depict this particular landscape leads viewers to more questions about who resides in this place and why.”

Carlson combines graphic line drawings with oil paint, using shellac to seal the graphite and act as a barrier between the paper and the oil paint. Her piece “Hollister, ID 83301” received the first place award, accompanied by a $500 cash prize, by juror Isabella La Rocca.

In explaining her choice, La Rocca says, “The figures are rendered in pencil and not defined as individuals, inviting the viewer to step into their place. This, the soft colors surrounding them, and the distant horizon beyond them, reinforce the sense that they — and by extension we — are at once escaping something that is fading and are coming together to connect to each other and to the land.”

Creative Director Brandon Long says “One of my favorite things about the Horizon show is how different jurors will have entirely different preferences toward the art that they choose.  Although most people immediately think of painting when they think of landscapes, it is interesting to choose jurors outside of that medium. This year’s juror, Isabella La Rocca, is a photographer, and this year’s exhibit includes a number of fantastic photographs. Last year’s juror, Kensuke Yamada, is a sculptor and most of his selections featured layering and mixed-media techniques.”

John Puffer’s  “abandoned golf course: Vincennes, Indiana.”

LaRocca is an artist working primarily with photography and motion pictures. She received a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.F.A. in photography from Indiana University. She currently teaches photography and moving Image in the art program at Centre College.   

This year’s Horizon exhibit includes many pieces that reference human intervention onto landscapes. Artist David Thiessen of Fort Collins, Colorado, says, “In many respects, human activity has moved from changing the landscape to covering it, binding it and scarring it. Consequently I feel we are not only substantively transforming our planet below, upon and above the surface, but we are also transfiguring its appearance in ways that are reshaping our sense of aesthetics.” He says that his entry, Skylines, represents a shift in viewpoint from “outward” to downward or upward for a “more intimate inspection of how our progress has changed the look of the land.”

Artist R. J. Moser of Lexington submitted a video work to the show, titled “All That Is Left Are Memories and Impressions.” Moser used sulphuric acid to dissolve photographs of old growth forest, then captured the complex interaction between the acid and the photograph via time-lapse photography.

Moser says, “My work represents our eroding landscape due to humans’ use of fossil fuels. This body of work commemorates the beauty of what we all stand to lose. It explores the moments of change, transformation and instability of our planet, yet also its moments of equanimity.”

The film received the show’s third-place award from juror La Rocca, who described it as “a metaphor for the degradation of our environment and the accompanying sense of mourning and loss.”

Photographer John Puffer of Vincennes, Indiana claimed the second place prize for his piece “abandoned golf course: Vincennes, Indiana.” Puffer says that he responds to what he sees around him and looks for irony in the landscape.

To juror La Rocca, “the barren and desolate appearance belies a glimmer of hope that these man-altered landscapes could soon be restored to a wild and ecologically healthy state.”

“Horizon: Contemporary Landscape” will be on exhibit through Nov. 4. Admission is free and the exhibit is open during regular business hours.

A full gallery of images is available online at

Check back next Tuesday to find out more about “Reflections.”


• Lunch with the Arts: Johann Van Niekerk, South Africa and the Democracy of Song, noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, $5/door, $3/students

• Starry Night Studio: Floating Maple Leaf, 7-9 p.m. Sept. 25, $28

• Soulshine Painting — Intuitive Leaves, 7-9 p.m. Sept. 27, $25

• Clay Workshop — Leaf Bowls, 5-6:30 p.m. Oct. 1 and 15, $35