SHEDDING LIGHT ON THE WORKING FOREST: a traveling exhibition of painting and poetry

Watershed, Summer Morning, 2015, oil on linen, 36" x 54" (91.4 x 137.2 cm) ,  private collection

Watershed, Summer Morning, 2015, oil on linen, 36" x 54" (91.4 x 137.2 cm), private collection

“We live in the forest, that huge biome named the Northern Forest, to be exact. In addition to all the products it gives us, the forest is our home. Perhaps that is the reason we often feel restored by simply walking in the woods.”  Tom Slayton

This project celebrates the landscape of the working forest and the voices of those who have honed skills into a livelihood there. Shedding Light draws on the artistic friendship of a painter and a poet who are committed to subjects that have been largely overlooked by the arts.

Kathleen Kolb evokes what is solid, luminous, yet ephemeral in the scenes she gathers and painstakingly paints. She talks about how a moment of “emotional ignition” kindles a work of art. As a writing partner, Verandah Porche befriends, questions and listens, to unearth and preserve the poetry embedded in lived experience. She calls this process “finding the verse in conversation.”

THE PROJECT:  Painter Kathleen Kolb and poet Verandah Porche have narrowed their focus to those who harvest timber in the rural northeast. The images and the accompanying narratives honor the workers and open their environment and their insights to the viewer. The artistic intent is neither critique nor sentiment, but to shed light on beauty and sensitivity, amid the danger and the din of machines.  Kolb’s visual art spans a twenty year period and includes many pieces that are in private and public collections. Porche’s work distills and amplifies the voices of people engaged with the working forest.

THE NEED:  This exhibition engages the community with a vital interest in the forest as a work place, a home, a field of study, and a playground, as well as viewers who have never set foot in the woods. This work matters because everyone depends on the forest for oxygen, clean water, wildlife habitat, soil stability, timber, fuel, recreation, and for inspiration. Consider the forest products that are taken for granted: the frame of a home, intimate paper products, treasured photographs, the pencil and shopping list, the frame of an easy chair, the match, the kitchen cupboard, the coffee table and the books it holds. This is only the start of a thoughtful inventory.  Viewing these paintings and poems can enrich an appreciation of the working of our forest landscape.  It provokes conversations about stewardship and how we care for our home places and our community.