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“Bewildered” exhibition coming to Nightingale Gallery

Dec. 8, 2022

“Bewildered” exhibition coming to Nightingale Gallery

"Iceberg with Strap-on" art piece by M. Acuff

LA GRANDE, Ore. – Eastern Oregon University’s Nightingale Gallery presents “Bewildered” a group exhibit featuring the work of northwest artists M. Acuff, Renee Couture and Carolyn Hopkins. The three artists explore issues associated with their deep relationship with the land and their bewilderment at being enmeshed in a culture deeply tied to the ongoing alteration of the environment. 

The exhibit opens on Friday, January 13 at 5 p.m. and will be on display until February 10. A reception for the artists will be held on the day of opening. As an adjunct to the exhibition, the three artists will also take part in a panel discussion addressing their studio practices which will be moderated by Professor Susan Murrell. The panel will take place Thursday, January 12 at 6 p.m. in Ackerman Hall, room 210. The public is encouraged to attend both events.

As residents of the Pacific Northwest’s more rural reaches, Acuff, Couture and Hopkins have built lives in which the land and its fragilities are experienced directly. Fleeing forest fires, caring for animals who cannot escape smoke-filled air, losing barns to wind, and picking up debris after flood waters subside have become near-annual routines for the three. Negotiating anthropocentric climate change and its resulting catastrophes is simply the new daily normal. Their love of remote and natural places must be reconciled with the bewilderment they feel at their own entanglement in the systems, economies and histories that have initiated, and perpetuate, this ongoing war against the earth.

Collectively, their work interrogates how they are part of the making and unmaking of this relationship. How land stewardship may mean considering notions of ecology and restoration in new ways, as well as their own fragility. The work of these three artists delves into ideas of vulnerability, dependence, surrender, defiance, stewardship and reciprocity.

M. Acuff who is a professor of Art at Whitman College has an artistic practice that ranges from object making to installation to video and performance, and addresses the tangled web of relations—aesthetic, ecologic, and material—that define the period in human/geologic history now known as the Anthropocene. 

The artist states “My installation seeks to make meaningful discourse with the non-human, mythic, instinctual, and unconscious world(s). The work builds from a sculptural practice that attempts to represent and re-negotiate our ‘withness-with-things’ wherein any and every fictional boundary dividing nature and culture must gleefully collapse.”

Renee Couture’s work explores the intersection and overlap between nature and human-made landscapes using a mix of color, image, and texture. She reuses pieces of older works, stretching their meaning by placing old imagery in a new context. “My current work investigates my fragile relationship with motherhood,” says Couture. “My work for this exhibition explores how this new role as mother connects me to my surrounding landscape and the future in a new way.” 

In addition to her studio practice, Couture works for the Oregon Arts Commission as a Program Manager in their Percent for Art Program 

Carolyn Hopkins who lives and works in Lyle, WA on her 20-acre ranch splits her time between the saddle and the Studio. Her work is often made from the viewpoint of the end in order to re-examine our current political and ecological landscapes, as well as the rise of solastalgia- the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment. 

“Since moving to Klickitat County WA, I have become acutely aware of my concurrently vulnerable and dependent relationships to the landscape around me, as well as the community I now reside in,” says Hopkins. “My new works operate as gestures of simultaneous surrender and defiance.”

“’Bewildered’ explores the three artists’ relationship to the changing landscape and asks us as fellow travelers of the planet to investigate our own relationship to and effect upon the land,” said Cory Peeke, Professor of Art and Director of the Nightingale Gallery.

For more information, follow the Nightingale Gallery on Facebook and Instagram.

To request images of artwork for publication or to schedule an interview with the artists please contact Gallery Director Cory Peeke at cpeeke@eou.edu.