Published on 10/5/2020.
College of the Redwoods presents Trouble Under the Big Trees, a virtual exhibition of environmentally themed paintings by Northern California artist Linda MacDonald. View image gallery. In conjunction with this online exhibition, a Zoom presentation and discussion of the artist’s work with CR Art Professor Cynthia Hooper took place on Wednesday October 21, 6:00 - 7:30pm, Pacific Time. Watch artist discussion on YouTube.
Trouble Under the Big Trees is an exhibition of paintings that feature innovative depictions of coastal northern California’s iconic redwood trees. With richly descriptive paintings, the artist Linda MacDonald meticulously examines the perceptual characteristics of these magnificent and monolithic forms. The paintings document the material evidence of these trees’ life histories inscribed in their bark: the marring, charring, and subtle disfigurement borne of their obdurate age. MacDonald’s paintings are both highly abstracted and precisely realistic—visually varied and colorful testaments to Sequoia sempervirens’ resilience in the face of more than a century of logging and habitat destruction. MacDonald’s visual analysis is also a testament to these trees’ admirable resistance to the destructive effects of climate-driven wildfires, which increasingly menace their historically cool coastal environments.
MacDonald is also fascinated by the challenge of depicting these trees in ways that evade the familiar tropes of representation. How can one convincingly describe the world’s tallest organisms on a 60” canvas? How can one approach representation that does justice to these trees’ incredible lifespans? What novel insights can an artist bring to this challenge? MacDonald’s solution is to get extremely physically and psychically close to these miraculous giants, interpreting their visual characteristics with brilliant color and precise observation. The artist hopes these works will create dialog and inquiry into the threatened status of these magnificent organisms—some of the longest lived on the planet.
Linda MacDonald, a native Californian, lives north of the Bay Area in a small Mendocino County town. She has taught in universities, colleges, art centers, and high schools, and has shown extensively in the US and Japan. Her work is included in collections at The White House, the City of San Francisco, the Museum of Art & Design in New York City, the International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska, and in many private collections.
Trouble Under the Big Trees will be opening soon and viewable through this website. Selected images of MacDonald’s work can also be viewed on the gallery’s Instagram @redwoodsgallery and Facebook throughout the duration of the exhibition.
The physical gallery space is currently closed to the public. For further inquiries or to be added to the exhibition announcement email list, email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a voicemail at (707) 476-4100 ext. 4869.
In the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries the cutting of large old growth redwoods and fir was a grand enterprise that built cities and helped to create an industrialized nation. There were so many of these trees in California that they were thought to go on forever. San Francisco was rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake and fire from lumber brought by ships from Mendocino and Humboldt counties. The heyday of unlimited logging is now over as 97% of the old growth has been cut, second and third growth is being cut and what is left is intensely fought over by private corporations, small mills, government agencies and environmentalists.
Logging has been of special interest to me because I live in the area and have seen the economic heyday of logging in the 1980s and also the bust when logging corporations cleared out and local economies declined because of the depletion of saleable timber. The industry is practically dead. Small towns have had to adapt and look elsewhere for economic sources. Tourism, wine making and cannabis farming are successful developments along with other small businesses. Most young people leave the small towns after high school and end up in the big cities with jobs in technology and live an urban life.
What concerns me is that our scenic wild lands are being converted into vineyards, recreational housing, suburbs and commercial development as our population increases. As these wild lands become scarcer how important is it that they are gone? Is it valuable for us to sustain (with our tax dollars) undeveloped land as habitat for wildlife? Do we want wildlife to exist at the expense of more conveniences for people? How important is this land for us as a sanctuary from urban density and urban stress? How safe do we want our lives to be in connection with wilderness lands? What are the problems when wildlife and humans unexpectedly come together?
I hope people think of these issues when they view my artwork. We will all have to make decisions in the future about the type of environment we want to live in. The problems are many and it is important for us to know what we value for today, tomorrow and the future.
Linda MacDonald, a native Californian born in Berkeley, lives north of the Bay Area in a small Mendocino County town. After college, she and her artist husband wanted a more rural life and moved to a cabin with acreage in the early 1970s. Over the years she has taught in universities, colleges, art centers and high schools and now maintains a studio in her home.
MacDonald began her art career as a painter, switched to textiles in the 1980s and as her work evolved, she returned to canvas and paper. She has shown extensively in the US and Japan and has work in the collection of The White House, the City of San Francisco, the Museum of Art & Design (MAD) in NYC, the International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska and in many private collections.
Her current concerns are the California redwood trees: their conservation, appreciation, knowledge, discovery and stewardship. She hopes to increase awareness of their plight through the many facets of her artwork. An interest in the redwood tourist attractions of the past portraying remnants of an earlier era in logging are of special intrigue.