Commissioned by the General Services Administration, Lutter made a site-specific installation for the refurbished Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Oregon located in a region once known for its dense forests of redwood, fir, and cedar trees. Though still populated by an abundance of vegetation, Portland is very much a city; accordingly for her installation, Lutter chose to bring the natural world into an architectural setting. The originating photograph for the piece was made in the Hudson Valley on March 9, 2013. Created using a camera obscura, a negative image was exposed onto black and white silver gelatin paper. Lutter decided to work in the winter when the ground was covered in snow, reflecting the sunlight, and illuminating the forest from underneath. The resulting photograph depicts a world that, while eerily familiar, inverts one’s normal vision of reality with the bright white snow transformed into a mysterious glow of blacks and grays.
Moving from analog into digital, the work was copy photographed in the artist’s studio, then the digital file was digitally processed to achieve a greater tonal contrast which allowed the highlights to become translucent once printed onto plexiglass for the final work.
Installed between two twenty-foot-tall windows, Forest is suspended between the ceiling and the floor within the lobby of the Wyatt Building. Hanging ten feet away from the windows behind it, the piece takes on a sculptural presence, permitting viewers to take in the work from all sides. Through its proximity to the windows, the work engages in a dialogue with the incoming natural light, and the literally glowing network of trunks and branches becomes intertwined with the building’s architectural elements and its visitors.
While many of Lutter’s past projects have focused on the interruption of nature by industry and commerce, conversely, here the forest confronts the city. This curious intersection between the natural and the architectural—the Dionysian and the Apollonian—conveys a sense of interconnectivity, providing the viewer with an opportunity to reflect on the state of the world and humanity’s place within it.