by: Cliff Newell, Friends of Tryon Creek State Park Executive Director  Step-hanie Wagner checks out The Lichen Link, which features strands of lichen hanging from string.

With Natural Cycles at Tryon Creek State Park, people will have to change the way they think about museums.

Instead of walls and rooms, the park's magnificent forest is the setting for works submitted by five outstanding Northwest artists. In this case, a stroll in the woods can result in being inspired by art as well as nature.

In fact, you won't see anything else like it anywhere.

'The artists have told us they've found no other place in the world like it,' said Stephanie Wagner, executive director of Friends of Tryon Creek State Park and founder of the exhibit. 'The way the art actually integrates with the forest.'

The tour of Natural Cycles will go something like this: You will be tripping along a forest path when all of a sudden you will see a simply gigantic Buckyball, made by Julian Voss-Andrae. People have often remarked upon the ball's resemblance to a soccer ball, especially children.

The main reaction has been to look up and go, 'Whoaaaaaa!'

But the 32-foot high Buckyball is only the beginning. Artwork greeting parkgoers along the way includes:

n The Lichen Link by Leta Evaskus and Christine Harrington. This creation is about as organic as art gets, with its many strings of wispy, swaying lichen hanging from string.

n Forest Animus by Charissa Brock. Readers of The Lake Oswego Review were treated to a photo of Brock installing her work of crosscut sections of bamboo on the trunks of trees. It is art, but it looks like it could have emerged from the forest.

n Golden Bands by Martha Morgan. Natural Cycles can be rather startling. Especially when people come across two gigantic golden bands on a massive tree. Unlike the art that blends in, Golden Bands truly stands out.

Besides Morgan, you might congratulate Wagner on this achievement. While an arborist climbed 100 feet to put on the top ring, Wagner stood for an hour holding up the lower band.

There is art for the ear, too. Carrie Bodle has installed a walking/listening/recording of the sounds of Tryon Creek, using a 10-channel sound installation on Trillium Trail. Softly playing are gongs, whispered poetry and field records.

'It's best heard at night when people's hearing is accentuated,' Wagner said. 'Sometimes they get a little scared.'

With all of this, Wagner is confident people will receive a most unusual experience.

'Natural Cycles gives a different perspective of the forest,' Wagner said. 'It gives a unique kind of inspiration.'

Artists were thrilled at the prospect of having their work shown in such a remarkable setting, and 51 of them applied to have the forest showcase.

'I can't believe how excited they were to come to a venue like this,' said Cynthia Johnson, publicist for the Friends of Tryon Creek State Park. 'They were truly, truly excited.

'There are other natural settings for art exhibits, such as Mount Hood, but they don't give the same feeling as this. The artists are thrilled to have their work here.'

An unexpected bonus of the exhibit is its 'scientific link.'

'It hits on math, physics and biology,' Wagner said. 'The lichen links to the message of how we humans actually live with the earth, the Buckyball is a molecular structure, and the rings represent the Golden Ratio, a math formula.'

Now in its second year, Natural Cycles is obviously a good thing, and Wagner and Johnson are working to keep it going.

'We're working on getting stable funding to make this an annual event,' Wagner said. 'So far, so good. Down the line, three or four years from now, we'd like to make it a Goldworth-type of thing where we collaborate with other areas.'

The Regional Arts and Culture Council has collaborated with the Friends group on the project, which has given it instant credibility in the artists community.

'Personally, it's been exciting to see proposals made, then actually implemented,' Johnson said.

A unique and successful art show is just fine, but Wagner and her organization have a higher goal in mind.

'Something like this makes people look at the forest a little closer,' she said. 'It makes us think about how we interact with the forest and think about what the forest is.

'Our ultimate goal is to foster stewardship and the conservation ethic so people will want to take care of this place.'

To find out more about Natural Cycles go to the Web site or call 503-636-4398.

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