Coconino Center for the Arts, Flagstaff, AZ, 2013
Virga: The Hunt for Water was a phenomenal exhibition of installations by artist Shawn Skabelund. Each installation was its own large scale work of art using found objects; Skabelund used materials such as 45 garbage bags of Quetta pine needles collected at Dead Horse Ranch State Park, hundreds of charred ponderosa pine logs from burnt slash pines on the Coconino National Forest, and hundreds of thousands of squirrel sticks (peeled twigs dropped by Abert squirrels). Each of the installations in Virga explored Skabelund’s relationship to specific local ecosystems within Northern Arizona. His hope is that viewers will come away seeing a form of art that they rarely get to see in this area. Skabelund received the Viola Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts at the 2014 Viola Awards for the Virga exhibition.
Virtual Gallery – Virga: The Hunt for Water
Images of individual installations:
A few years ago, a director of the School of Art at Northern Arizona University stated that the only nature he needed was between the front door of his house and the door to his car. Wendell Berry prophetically said that a person doesn’t really know who they are until they know where they are. I used to tell my students that figure drawing is perhaps the most important class that a person could take in college. It teaches a student to see. That is why a good teacher will tell their students to look, and then, to look again. Figure drawing can create an opening, a space, to see things differently, not only from the model posed in front of them, but in all aspects of our lives.
The landscape is my studio, but rarely do I use it as my subject matter, nor do I draw or paint in it. Rather, I observe and look, and with that looking, I discover materials which can be used to create “new landscapes” and new forms. Each of these installations explore my relationship to specific landscapes in Northern Arizona. My hope is that viewers will come away seeing the landscapes that they walk through in a new way, that they will become specialists in observing the ecosystems they share with other creatures, and how we can lessen the human impact on these landscapes. Like the talus bone that connects lower leg to foot, a bone that means “to slough off,” may we walk with an alert eye over the talus slopes and scree, while never missing the moment of each step. By incorporating a variety of materials not used in traditional art, I hope to open eyes to the possibility of what art is, and can be.
The lesson not only for artists, but for all humans is to look, and then, to look again, for all art is, is a search for truth.