Letha Wilson: Ground Spell
“As the Fall 2022 Windgate Artist in Residence (WAIR) I fully immersed myself in the Visual Arts program here at SUNY Purchase, both as an artist and a teacher. This exhibition is the culmination of my residency here and has provided me a unique opportunity to spend time making work for this specific gallery.”
“The large-scale piece Slit Slot Canyon was created in response to the primary wall of the gallery, spanning two floors with large windows and creates a cathedral-like setting. The metal stud wall installed on the back gallery wall was inspired in part by the ongoing construction for the future Broadview Senior Living Community which has been intensely underway during my time here. Watching the progress of this large - scale construction site I felt both repelled and enchanted at the engineering, manpower, and scale of its erection. In truth these metal studs lay below almost every surface of our buildings.”
I was immediately drawn to the idea of removing a large section of the main gallery wall. After the sheetrock and plywood was removed, faculty commented that a decade ago this wall was entirely made of windows. The photograph featured in Slit Slot Canyon was one I took at Lower Antelope Canyon, a gorgeous slot canyon on Navajo land, near the town of Paige, Arizona. The site is incredibly photogenic, sometimes dangerous and only accessible through a guided tour; both to protect the land and the visitors. Flash floods have killed several visitors to these slot canyons. This sculpture is a fraction of the scale of the canyon, hinted at by a barely visible figure in the bottom of the photograph.
These selections of paper pieces shown are what I would consider ‘tests’ for future projects, but show the iterations as I burned images into the paper with the laser cutter. The two steel wall pieces continue a series that uses photographs printed directly onto steel using a flatbed or UV printer, and then folding in the metal brake and welding onto custom frames.
I would like to give a Huge Thanks to Curatorial Manager Greg Wharmby who was so incred-ibly helpful at generous at all stages of this exhibition, and supported my plan to the de-con-struct of the wall. Thanks also to Sarah Crowe, Jen Dawson, John O’Shea, John Mccaughey, Kate Gilmore, Rachel Owens, Joshua Lutz, Katie Murray, Christine Attanasio, Anna Brand, Jenna Donnelly, the gallery crew and all the students and faculty to were so generous with their knowledge and time during my residency.” - Letha Wilson
Letha Wilson’s practice is rooted in material experimentation. She is known for her synthesis of mediums, expanding the visual and physical dimensions of photography and sculpture.
By combining industrial materials such as Corten steel, aluminum, and vinyl with photography, Wilson has developed unique fabrication processes. She prints images depicting the beauty of natural landscapes onto her sculptures, embeds them in the surface of her works, and manipulates them in various unexpected compostions. The sweeping expanse of a desert sunset, grooved rock formations, and verdant palm trees are among images Wilson has taken while travelling in Hawaii, the American West, and Iceland. The natural world is both the subject and content of her work; a metaphor for the role of the landscape in myths of renewal, and possibility.
Wilson’s site-specific works and public projects convey her ideas on a monumental scale, altering the space around them and offering moments of respite in the urban landscape. The outdoor sculptures engage directly with the elements and nature; as patinas form over time due to weather conditions, the natural world will act as a co-creative force on the appearance of these artworks.
Letha Wilson (b. 1976 in Honolulu, HI, US) was raised in Greeley, CO (US). She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY (US) and Hudson, NY (US). She earned her BFA from Syracuse University, NY (US) in 1998, and an MFA from Hunter College, NY (US) in 2003. Residencies include The MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH (US), University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV (US), Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Madison, ME (US), The Yaddo Foundation, NY (US), Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, NE (US), and Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA (US).
Wilson’s work has been featured in recent solo exhibitions at GRIMM, Amsterdam (NL) and New York, NY (US); Higher Pictures Generation, Brooklyn, NY (US); Anderson Ranch, Aspen, CO (US); the Center for Contemporary Art and Culture, Portland, OR (US); the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA (US), and Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris (FR).
Wilson has participated in group exhibitions at the New York Public Library, New York, NY (US); The Henie Onstad Triennial for Photography and New Media, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Høvikodden (NO); MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (US); MACRO Museo d’ Arte Contemporanea, Rome (IT); Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg (AT); Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, NE (US); Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY (US); Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, NY (US); and the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT (US).