Who: Artist Michael Boonstra’s new works display in “n o w h e r e.”

The exhibit whose title can be read as “now here” or “nowhere,” is being hosted by At Liberty Arts Collaborative, located at 849 NW Wall St., through Dec. 29. Its First Friday opening last week was well-attended. “It was fantastic, enough so that they ran out of wine,” Boonstra said. Based in Eugene, he’ll be back in Bend to discuss the inspiration behind the show at 2 and 6 p.m. Nov. 30, and for a First Friday artist reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 7. He’ll also be winter Artist in Residence at Caldera, an arts camp near Sisters. Contact: atlibertyarts.com.

Q: You’re doing a Caldera Residency — is that in December too?

A: Yes, so that’s going to start on the 8th. So I’m just going to come out a day early for First Friday and then head down to Caldera (in Sisters) on Saturday.

Q: What do you plan on working on?

A: A couple of things. One is not very interesting. I’m going to be rewriting a course I teach, reorganizing it for OSU. I’m also working on a project that is going to be at the Marine Studies building out in Newport, which is not due for installation until December 2019, but the project began last spring. Basically, I have a lot of digital work to complete for that project. So it’s being able to hole up and spend a week before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays to knock out a lot of work so I can relax over the holidays.

Q: Can you tell me about the works in the current show?

A: There’s basically two bodies of work in the show. There’s the burn series, and then the nowhere/now here. The burn series is primarily — I call them drawings, but they use acrylic and some other materials and processes as well. It’s kind of a long-going project that started in 2005 as a drawing that I made after the Clark Fire at Fall Creek. That was kind of our family’s spot. Our favorite swimming hole got … completely reduced to ash, and all the old-growth trees died. It was a fire that was extremely hot, and the canopies of the old growth burned, which is rare, or was rare. I made this drawing out of carbon-based ink, pieces of wood that created a print along the top, and then the bottom was blown ink. So basically you have wood, carbon and wind, so the only thing left (out of) the drawing is fire. I like that most of the time, the materials I use in my drawing practice are relevant to the place, or the landscape, that I’m referring to. (He discusses related pieces, as well as one that used ash from the Milli Fire of 2017.) … The Gorge Fire later on that summer, a lot of people were affected by that. … A lot of people I know, their kind of favorite spots around the Gorge were gone, completely changed and radically altered in the span of a few days. … The other body of work, in terms of my motivations, I still have a lot of questions about. But it’s photographic work that has nonexpressive drawings over the top of it — hundreds of lines either made in acrylic or reflective mylar tape. I’m interested in how the American West has been portrayed in images over the last few hundred years, and the mythologies of the American West that have really propagated. Primarily things about the environment itself — that it’s vast, that it’s endless, and also extremely strong — that’s not a good word to use — but that it can’t be damaged.

Q: Indestructible?

A: There we go. I should have had another cup of coffee. A lot of those ideas, especially 19th century painting, manifest destiny, all of that is in the canon of American painting. I’m interested in making images (that ask) how can you make an artwork that uses the American West as subject matter in 2018, that makes you look closely and hopefully questions what it is that you’re looking at and our relationship to these places. That’s for both environmental and cultural reasons. I’ll admit, too, I’m from Michigan, and part of what drew me out West was this kind of mythological fascination with these wide-open places and the ruggedness of wilderness areas and everything else. But I can see that allure, but at the same time, it’s not a truthful representation of this place.

— David Jasper, The Bulletin

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