Pegi Christiansen: Winter Forest 2015

February 27, 2015

This post is by Pegi Christiansen, a Lynden artist in residence through October 15. Learn more about her Distance project here.

One of my favorite temporary art pieces at Lynden is Sightseer by local artist Brian Nigus. For Lynden's Winter Carnival I proposed to roam Lynden in the fall, save what I collected, and create a “Winter Forest” display inside his “portable think-space.”

Jeremy Stepien was a student of mine at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in the nineties. For “Winter Forest” Jeremy, Lynden’s Director of Education, was my teacher and advisor. He asked this important question: “What will happen to the display at the end of the carnival?” It took several months before I came up with the solution.

In October I met with Brian to discuss “Winter Forest.” No one had mounted a display inside Sightseer since it came to Lynden last summer (Brian had made the piece in 2011 while he was a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and it had been used in various ways before arriving in Milwaukee). Brian requested that everything I placed in Sightseer come from Lynden.

I made four major collection trips to Lynden during the fall. Except for cutting wild weeds, I would only collect what I found on the ground. The trips were exhilarating. I would always lose track of where I was and find plants I had never come across before and wonder, “What’s this?”

In January I made three planning trips to Lynden. I spent time inside Sightseer and measured it carefully. Jeremy showed me all the types of items, like vases, I could use to help with the display and I experimented with eight basic designs before I selected the one I wanted.

On January 30th, I started making “Winter Forest.” Naomi Cobb, Lynden’s naturalist, asked me whether it was primarily planned or being made on the spot. I told her it was a blend of both. Sightseer only has one door and is less than six feet wide. I had to plan carefully because I needed to work from the far end toward the door. Once I arranged an area, I could no longer reach it to make changes. At the same time, I was totally winging it. I spent 25 hours over five days musing inside Brian’s very special “think-space” and my head popped with ideas about where to place particular items I had collected.

DoorView
Winter Forest

It was at this point that Naomi told me that she was going to have a bonfire during the Winter Carnival. What a perfect conclusion to "Winter Forest": to burn all the branches and wild weeds during the final hour. Jeremy's question was answered. I spent twelve days making “Winter Forest.” It would be on view for five hours, and then it would become ashes.

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Winter Forest, photo: Eddee Daniel

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Winter Forest, photo: Jeremy Stepien

At 3 pm on February 7 as the Winter Carnival wound down, friends and carnival visitors, as well as several children very eager to throw things on the bonfire, gathered around me. I was alone for those twelve days of making, so it couldn’t have been sweeter to have a group of children and friends carrying everything over to the flames as we unmade "Winter Forest."

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Bonfire, photo: Eddee Daniel

Sweetest of all was a child, Caroline May, who named the dried dead toad “Hubertus.” I saved Hubertus for her and brought it to her home. “Winter Forest” lives on.

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Hubertus, photo: Jeremy Stepien

Hubertus
Hubertus, photo: Eddee Daniel


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