Canopy: On Helen Lessick's Trees

Co-sponsors Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art and the Murdoch Exhibition Space are pleased to present CANOPY: On Helen Lessick’s Trees, a solo exhibit by Helen Lessick that is a must-see for cultural visitors, art lovers and tree-huggers throughout the summer of 2017.

Lessick has been investigating the imagery and metaphor of plants for decades and CANOPY showcases Lessick’s recent works with trees across the American west. CANOPY explores our experience of and protection by trees.  The exhibit coincides with the 30th anniversary of House for Summer, Lessick’s living tree sculpture growing in Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum. CANOPY shows Lessick’s many site-specific installations as well as sculpture, artists’ books and works on paper in one exhibit.

Prominent in the show are Lessick’s photographs of House for Summer in all seasons and diverse phases of growth. The work, planted in 1987 consists of 15 birch trees planted in a large rectangle, and trimmed and pruned annually. Started as a temporary artist initiated project, House for Summer was added to the City of Portland’s Public Art Collection in 2002 and is maintained in a unique partnership with the Arboretum and the Regional Arts and Culture Council. Beginning in 1990, Lessick created and directed site-specific performances on the summer solstice, commissioning other artists to respond to the site. The exhibit includes original playbills, and outtakes from the sculpture.

A second project in the exhibit is The Trees: A Play in Three Acts by the Plant Community, A temporary work commissioned by the City of Santa Monica, The Trees exploring the community of trees in a park as theatrical characters performing during the dawn and dusk, and building a healthier environment. Helen made their performances visible through six temporary installations.

Shadow Reliquary is a four-part sculpture with ink on the limbs and heartwood of a elm tree salvaged from Lessick’s property. It explores the memories of youthful appearance, insects, squirrels, and leafing out from the tree’s perspective.

Unnatural Wonders is a textual sculpture comprised of 26 papier maché acorns made from the pages of noted contemporary art critic Arthur Danto’s essays of the same name.  The acorns are in canisters on a display shelf so aspects of the critic’s texts may be seen at a glance.

Also displayed are wood sculptures, works on paper in watercolor, gouache and pastel, and preliminary drawings that led to the planted tree house structure.   A 32-page color catalog with an essay by Seattle artist and arts writer Tori Ellison accompanies the exhibit, and is available through the Gallery and in the Reed College bookstore, where Lessick is exhibiting small works in the Library.

This exhibit is co-produced by Jeffrey Thomas and Jeffrey Thomas Fine Art in collaboration with the Murdoch Exhibition Space, located at 2219 NW Raleigh Street, Portland, OR 97210.

About the Artist:  Helen Lessick is a visual artist working in sculpture, installation, artists’ books and public art. She has received a Pollock Krasner Foundation fellowship, project grants from Art Matters, the Warhol Foundation and the Oregon Arts Commission and was the 2000 Bonnie Bronson Foundation fellow. Helen has been honored with solo shows at the Bellevue Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum and the Sierra Nevada Museum of Art (now Nevada Art Museum), and has created commissioned artworks in Europe and Africa as well as across the US.  Helen earned her BA in Art from Reed College and her MFA in Studio Art from the University of California Irvine. She maintains her practice in Los Angeles.

About the Murdoch Exhibition Space: The Murdoch Exhibition Space is a white cube open to various curators and the public and is located at 2219 NW Raleigh, Portland, OR 97210. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m. or by appointment.