Vera Lutter Forest
Fdigital ink jet on Plexiglass

Commissioned by the General Services Administration to create an artwork, Lutter chose to make a site-specific installation for the newly 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 work, Lutter chose to bring the natural world into an architectural setting. The originating photograph for the piece was made on March 9, 2013 in the Hudson Valley. Obtained by a camera obscura, a negative image was produced on 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 the analog into the digital, the work was copy photographed in the artist’s studio. The digital file was processed in Photoshop to achieve greater tonal contrast than the original paper negative allowing the highlights to become translucent once printed onto plexiglass for the final work.

Enclosed on two sides by 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 assumes a sculptural presence, permitting viewers to circle around it. Through its proximity to the windows, the work forms a dialogue with the incoming natural light since little artificial light is used to illuminate the lobby. As light shines through the panels, the literally glowing network of trunks and branches becomes intertwined with the building’s architectural elements and with those who inhabit the surrounding space.

While many of Lutter’s past projects have focused on the interruption of nature by industry and commerce, conversely, here the forest has confronted 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.