Will Ambrose:  The Forest

This solo exhibition is the culmination of ten years of work, remade over the last two years into an immersive exhibition for all ages.  The Forest features more than 80 paintings by Flagstaff based artist Will Ambrose, and includes sound and video installations, tactile sensory elements, and passages on the nature of time and change.

The project began while Ambrose visited with his grandmother at her Alzheimer’s memory care rest home.  Sitting with her, and looking through the lens of the deterioration she was experiencing became a way to look at the nature of disappearance itself.  Alzheimers doesn’t eat away but actually covers over the mind’s capacity for memory, like wild growth.  Ambrose has used this idea as the acorn to build a show about disappearances of all kinds.  By taking paintings of family and friends made over the last ten years to stand as memory, he has systematically painted over them for the last two years in order to discover something new.

“We are continually in a process of experiencing, remembering, letting go.  Unmaking and remaking.  My feeling is that we recognize and appreciate what we have most when we understand we will lose it, and being gently guided to an awareness of that feeling can only be freeing.

Paintings made over the last ten years, most never shown publicly, would be covered first in white paint until there was nothing left and then I would see what came next.  For me what emerged was forest.  I had a night, sometimes two to work on them before the paint dried again and the window closed.  Many times while painting over someone, some earlier memory, I’ll feel connected with a person I’ve lost and feel that all over again.  The point is to allow that in.  By taking something I cared about—my work of the last decade, and piece by piece giving it away to some unknown annihilation I was reenacting a ritual.  Inhabiting a process of disappearance and seeing where it took me.  Into the unknown.  Into the forest.

I have chosen to present these paintings of memory to show what is lost, as plain and specific as I can make them.  The particular events of my life are not especially remarkable, but to me they’re the realest thing I have to offer.  My best chance to bring you to something of your own and see something of yourself.  To place yourself in this process of which you are already a part.

Included are over 80 paintings of memory, and paintings showing memory disappearing into forest.  As well as video documentation of this process, sound installation and a trail of locally collected evergreen needles running through the gallery.

Schedule of Events

This exhibition was rescheduled due to COVID-19, new exhibition dates have not been announced. 

Opening Reception: TBD
Exhibition is Open: TBD

Artist’s Bio

B. Minneapolis, MN.  Graduated Sarah Lawrence College, NY, 2005, with a year abroad at the College of Queen Mary, University of London.  His work has been exhibited across the United States including galleries in Los Angeles and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  Most recently he was awarded the Arizona Research and Development Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts which receives support from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts.  Ambrose is cofounder and executive director of MOCAF, the Museum Of Contemporary Art Flagstaff, since its founding in 2013.  He moved to Arizona from Los Angeles in 2010 and has lived and worked in Flagstaff ever since.  A long time supporter, patron and contributor to group and community exhibitions, this is his first solo show at the Coconino Center for the Arts.