On View:  April 7 – May 21, 2022

The Presence of Nature

Exhibition on View:

April 8 – May 21, 2022
Tuesday – Saturday 10am to 4pm

What does it mean to be in the presence of nature, to be present in nature?  This exhibition, featuring work by three Oregon-based artists, presents interpretations of nature that arise when wholly immersed in Oregon’s diverse natural environments. As immigrants, Claire Burbridge, Naeemeh Naeemaei, and Olga Volchkova find both familiarity and the unexpected in their explorations of Oregon’s landscapes and find new inspirations and artistic connections in their growing friendship made possible through an active online discourse initiated with the exhibition project.  In addition to their discrete installations, aspects of their conversation will punctuate the exhibition, and there is a possibility of a new collaborative work that will extend and transform their own practices.  Organized by Jill Hartz, an independent curator and former executive director of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon, Eugene, The Presence of Nature is being planned in conjunction with AIFF’s April 2022 festival, which will take “nature” as one of its themes.  In addition to the work of the three artists noted above, AIFF artistic director Richard Herskowitz will curate a program of nature-inspired videos in the Treehaven Gallery.

Born in London in 1971, Claire Burbridge grew up on the west coast of Scotland in rural Somerset.  She received her BA in Fine Art and History of Art from Oxford University and her MA from Camberwell College of Art, London. In 2010, she moved to Ashland and began a deep study of nature, resulting in beautiful and complex drawings and watercolors. Wild nature greets her each morning at her hilltop home, whose backyard offers views of mountain ranges, unkempt gardens, and untamed creatures.

Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians) was born and raised in Ferndale, Washington and spent a number of years in Palm Springs and Riverside, California, Portland, Oregon, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Portland he studied and taught chinuk wawa, a language indigenous to the Lower Columbia River Basin. His video, photo, and text work centers around personal positions of Indigenous homeland and landscape, designs of language as containers of culture expressed through personal, documentary, and non fiction forms of media. He received his BA from Portland State University in Liberal Arts and his MFA in Film, Video, Animation, and New Genres from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His work has played at various festivals including ImagineNATIVE Media + Arts Festival, Images, Wavelengths, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Sundance, and Projections. His work was a part of the 2016 Wisconsin Triennial and the 2017 Whitney Biennial and the 2018 FRONT Triennial. He was a guest curator at the 2019 Whitney Biennial and was a part of Cosmopolis #2 at the Centre Pompidou. He was awarded jury prizes at the Onion City Film Festival, the More with Less Award at the 2016 Images Festival, the Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker at the 54th Ann Arbor Film Festival, the New Cinema Award at the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival and the Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowship for Individual Artists in the Emerging artist category for 2018. He was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University in 2018- 2019 and Sundance Art of Nonfiction Fellow for 2019, and is 2020 Guggenheim Fellow.

Kurtis Hough, winner of the 2014 Oregon Media Arts Fellowship, Portland filmmaker Kurtis Hough’s work blends animation, documentary, and the surreal into an investigation of the musical undertones found in abstract patterns of nature. Beginning with time-lapse photography of landscapes from around the planet, Hough’s work captures the lyricism and movements of unseen microscopic formations and natural events that typically go unnoticed by the human eye. His films have been screened at many festivals and have earned awards from, among others, the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Philadelphia Video Festival, and Onion City Experimental Film Festival.

Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1984, Naeemeh Naeemaei received her BA in art from Tehran Art University in 2006 and presented her series Dreams Before Extinction, featuring twelve paintings about endangered animals, at the Henna Gallery in Tehran in 2011 and at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in 2019. During 2019-21, she turned to photography to create a series of images in which a red scarf, a symbol of the artist, becomes an active participant in nature, a line in a fallen log, a shroud covering her body inside a hollowed tree, a home for leaves and animals. A continuation of the artist’s exploration of the human-nature dichotomy, the series is both lyrical and elegiac in its simplicity and power. The artist’s website is currently under construction.

Vanessa Renwick, founder and janitor of the Oregon Department of Kick Ass, has been a singular voice in the experimental cinema for over twenty years. Eschewing an allegiance to any one medium or form, Renwick builds authentic moving image works revealing an insatiable curiosity and unflinching engagement with the world around her. Often focusing her lens on nature, freedom, and the locales of her adopted home, the Pacific Northwest, she uses avant-garde formal elements to explore radical politics and environmental issues. An artist who often self-distributes, her screening history reads as a map of independent cinema worldwide. She has screened work in hundreds of venues internationally, institutional and not, including the Museum of Modern Art, Light Industry, the Wexner Center for the Arts, Art Basel, Oberhausen, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, Centre Pompidou, Bread and Puppet Theater and True/False Film Festival.

Born in Russia in 1970, Olga Volchkova is a professionally trained icon painter and conservator.  A resident of Eugene, she uses her knowledge of Orthodox iconography and her love of botany to create provocative paintings that explore the history of florae. Through intensive research about each plant specimen she portrays, Volchkova creates visual narratives that explore the mythologies humans have created around plants, while expertly rendering the form of each leaf, petal, and tendril.


Claire Burbridge
Sky Hopinka
Kurtis Hough
Naeemeh Naeemaei
Vanessa Renwick
Olga Volchkova


Jill Hartz
Richard Herskowitz

Virtual Creative Industries Discussion

Thursday, April 28th at 12:30pm PST (Recording)

View the Catalog HERE