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Natural Cycles unveils Saturday

by:  VERN UYETAKE, 
An unidentified friend, left, and Lee Imonen unload Imonen’s artistic creation The Source Series for Natural Cycles at Tryon Creek State Park. Sustainability has emerged as a strong theme of the five pieces for this year’s exhibition.

Natural Cycles 2008, that wonderful mix of art and nature at Tryon Creek State Park, has its Family Day Opening Celebration this weekend, Sept. 27-28.

Besides the unveiling of forest art installations by five Northwest artists, there will be a fundraising dinner on Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m. and a Natural Cycles Family Day on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.

'This is really coming along,' said Stephanie Wagner, executive director of Friends of Tryon Creek State Park. 'More and more people are appreciating why we're doing it, and they're glad! They're excited about the new pieces and seeing the changes that are being made.

'This year's exhibit is completely fresh. I don't feel we're revisiting ideas, and I think that is wonderful. It's amazing how much diversity and how many artistic approaches we've had.'

One of those new artists is Lee Imonen of Dexter. In The Source Series he transforms a fallen tree into a three-piece work of art - part lumber, part pine box, part picket fence.

'I've re-adapted this to my own particular aesthetic,' Imonen said. 'This piece shows the relationship between the material world and the human.'

Thirty-five artists applied for exhibition in Natural Cycles 2008, and Imonen said he appreciates being one of the five chosen.

'This is a really comfortable way to experience art, although it can be daunting,' Imonen said. 'At a park you're prepared for new things and new experiences, and the idea of an art walk and nature is a perfect match. People are really excited when they come here.'

Julie Lindell of Seattle has chosen to make a strong social statement with a work that emphasizes sustainability.

'It's like non-trivial pursuit,' said Lindell, of her sculpture of a huge ball of tree branches with all kinds of items - an ironing board, traffic cones, hubcaps, shopping cart, a sled which looks like something out of Citizen Kane, bicycle, lamp, and - you guessed it - even a kitchen sink.

All of these things were gathered from the side of the road.

'There's no place for us to throw anything out,' Lindell said. 'We've got to take everything that is made and make it into something that works.'

Wagner is especially delighted that each year Natural Cycles somehow takes on a theme without any kind of imposition from the Friends of Tryon Creek State Park or anyone else. For example, last year's exhibit made a strong connection with science.

'The theme evolves through the selection process,' Wagner said. 'How do people interact with nature? And how will nature endure? It's interesting how the theme evolves rather than us trying to define it.'

As with any artistic exhibit, there are conflicts of opinion. Wagner keeps a comment scrapbook right on the front desk at Tryon Creek State Park, and some patrons are candid about not liking art in a forest setting.

Wagner said, 'We get comments like, 'You guys are nuts.''

Far more prevalent are comments like, 'Please, please, please continue this art and nature series' and 'The only truly magical art installation I've ever seen.'

Now in its fourth year, Natural Cycles looks like it is becoming a tradition. Last year of Tryon's 380,000 visitors, 40,000 of them went down the Trillium Trail to view the art/nature exhibit.

For more information about Natural Cycles 2008, visit http://www.tryonfriends.org/ .

Natural Cycles is a collaborative project between the Friends of Tryon Creek State Park, the Regional Arts and Culture Council and Oregon State Parks.