Commissioned by the General Services Administration, Vera Lutter created 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 now very much a city; accordingly for her installation, Lutter chose to bring the natural world into an architectural setting. The source imagery for the piece is a photograph which Lutter 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. Working in the winter when the ground is covered in snow, the blanket of white reflected the sunlight and illuminated the forest from underneath. The resulting photograph depicts the bright white snow as a mysterious glow of blacks and grays.
Moving from analog into digital, the work was copy photographed in the artist’s studio, the file was then digitally processed to achieve a greater tonal contrast, allowing the highlights to become translucent when printed onto plexiglass to realize the final work.
Installed between two twenty-foot-tall windows, Forest is suspended between the ceiling and the floor within Wyatt Building’s lobby. Hanging ten feet away from the windows behind it, the piece takes on a sculptural presence, permitting viewers to view the work from all sides. Through its proximity to the windows, the work engages in a dialogue with the incoming natural light, and the glowing network of trunks and branches intertwines 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.