The College of Forestry is committed to integrating art and science to create and inspire sustainable solutions to climate change.
“As a mostly STEM college, it is all too easy to focus just on science, and yet, the arts help us be better scientists and citizens,” said Tom DeLuca, dean of the College of Forestry.
Unveiled in October 2022, and co-presented by the College of Forestry and College of Liberal Arts, John
Grade’s sculpture, “Emeritus,” is inspired by the form of an absent tree. Suspended in the middle of OSU’s giant sequoias in the MU Quad, the 80-foot-tall sculpture invites viewers to peer vertically into the hollow, ghostly space of an imagined fourth trunk, formed of tens of thousands of cast and carved pieces that reference the species’ cones, needles and branches. The sculpture was commissioned to celebrate the opening of the Patricia Valian Reser Center for the Creative Arts.
During its 14-month stay in the sequoia grove, College of Forestry researchers will collect data about the ecological conditions of “Emeritus” using automated dendrometer readings, bio-acoustic monitoring and
rainwater DNA sequencing. College of Forestry researchers also helped install the sculpture.
“Emeritus” is open to visitors 24 hours a day and softly illuminated at night.
Peavy Forest Science Center isn’t just a living laboratory gathering data from two hundred sensors to contribute to mass timber research. It’s also a showcase for public art, courtesy of Oregon’s “Percent for Art” legislation.
Dedicated to providing Oregonians with high-quality, accessible art in public places, the Percent for Art legislation sets aside no less than one percent of funds for the acquisition of public-facing artwork in all state building construction projects. The program has placed nearly 2,400 works of art around Oregon for the public to visit.
“The College is fortunate to host three extraordinary Percent for Art installations,” said Tom DeLuca. “These pieces of art bring life and reflection to our community and help us understand the past as we look forward.”
Reaching 22 feet in height, Robert Horner’s “The Perseverance of Decay” resides in the arboretum outside the building. This tree-like structure is built from torched ribs of wood, evoking the feeling of a burnt-out tree from a forest fire. The charred wood makes a direct connection to the fragility and impermanence of life. The inner core of the space, made of boulders and a basalt column that collects rainwater, prompts
contemplation on how humans manage the environment.
“Things Remembered in the Flood” is an interior/exterior installation by The Wakanim Collaborative: Earl Davis, Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe; Tony “Naschio” Johnson, Chinook Indian Nation; Travis Stewart, Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde; and Shirod Younker, Coquille Indian Tribe. It tells the first dated story of the Mary’s River Kalapuya, whose ancestral lands are what Oregon State University now occupies. Five exterior aluminum pieces illustrate lines of the Kalapuyan story, along with design elements of traditional Southern Oregon baskets. The exterior forms emerge as if from the drainage of flood waters, referencing the “Missoula Floods” (10,000–13,000 years ago). The interior figures, carved from diverse woods, represent Oregon’s nine federally recognized Tribes. The tenth figure is for the Indigenous peoples still fighting for federal recognition, as well as acknowledging unknown Tribes lost to cataclysmic events. The artists intend the work to be a visual reminder of the responsibility to cultivate friendship and collaboration between OSU and the nine federally recognized tribes of Oregon.
The inspiration for Leah Wilson’s “Listening to the Forest” came from the changing light quality and color
she noticed while climbing the Discovery Tree in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. The texture and color of the panels are based on the cellular structure of woods — specifically red alder, western hemlock, pacific yew and Douglas-fir trees — and the variances of light quality from forest floor to forest canopy. Each outward-facing surface is white, but the back layer of each panel is painted, creating a reflection of color and light.
Special thanks to Percent for Art committee members Seri Robinson, Mariapaola Riggio, Anthony Davis, Adrienne Wonhof, Thomas and Nicole Maness, Gail Woodside, Libby Ramirez, Bill Coslow, and Kate Ali.
A version of this story appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Focus on Forestry, the alumni magazine of the Oregon State University College of Forestry.