Fascinated by the relationship between humans and the planet, Agnes Bourne melds art and sustainability in the Center of the Arts’ newest installation, “Sustain.”
As the Center’s creative in residence, Bourne embraced her role as curator to fill outdoor spaces with works that promote the health and healing of Earth.
Bourne knew she wanted to work with artists who prioritized natural preservation, so she found three who took our planet as their subjects and who created outdoor installations with recycled or natural materials representing trees, water and humanity.
Ben Roth’s installation, “Earthrise,” represents the trees. Roth created a 40-inch varied wooden sphere from about 400 logs to inspire optimism in viewers. He filled the cracks between the wood pieces with dirt and seeds that should transform into a bloom of wildflower in the spring.
Made to look like a ball half submerged in water, “Earthrise” symbolizes hope, Roth said.
“Hopefully, by spring we’ll be kind of coming out of COVID and our political uncertainty and things will be heading in the right direction,” he said.
Roth considers the trees a part of his spirit animal. He enjoys spending hours in the woods, finding dead trees to repurpose and to use to create a space of hope for the community.
Young designer Bland Hoke brings a representation of water to the collection. Hoke’s installation, “Ripple,” is a smaller prototype of a larger project he hopes to someday bring to Jackson. His work spans a 120-foot chain-link fence made entirely of recycled materials from businesses and manufacturers, mimicking the flow of water.
“I like to create things where you find something and figure out what to do with it,” Hoke said, “versus imagining something in your head and then, you know, finding the right materials to make it out of.”
Part of Hoke’s artistic philosophy, however, brings challenges. As he neared the end of the fence he ran out of materials, leading him to a local energy company that supplied him with bright yellow gas lines. Uncertain at first, Hoke began adding the yellow lines to his prototype and later received feedback that it reminded someone of Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night.”
“So this yellow gas line is like one of those perfect little solutions that, like, you know, thinking through, making and trying to approach a project as a prototype and learning as you go, is going to be much more fruitful,” he said.
The third artist of the collective, Sam Dowd, focused on the human aspect of Earth. His installation, “Glimpse,” is a totem pole of stacked ceramic face jugs.
“I attempted to make a lot of different expressions, and the idea was to kind of portray a number of emotions that have been going through the community over the past six to eight months,” Dowd said.
Though he hasn’t finished the installation yet, Dowd hopes it will rotate, allowing people to see every angle of all of the faces, generating silly laughter and joy.
Oona Doherty, the Center for the Arts’ creative initiatives director, said the creative in residence is the Center’s largest initiative and involves a guest curator activating spaces throughout the campus.
Bourne, the latest recipient of the title, brings a sense of optimism and a can-do spirit to her project, “Sustain,” Doherty said.
“Especially during these uncertain times,” Doherty said, her “unwavering belief in the power of the arts to transform our lives for the better is a daily inspiration to all of us at the Center.”
The opening celebration of “Sustain” is set for 4:30 p.m. Friday, with an hourlong outdoor viewing followed by a livestream talk with the artists at 6 p.m.
And Bourne is only getting started. Her celebration of humanity, optimism and imagination on the Center for the Arts campus will continue throughout the year, with her next exhibit, “Anything’s Possible” — featuring local designers, painters, sculptures and furniture makers and recognizing the endless possibilities of the past, present and future in Jackson — opening Sept 20.
“The sustainability of the arts here and the subject of the arts here create a future,” Bourne said.