Lisa Wood by Genevieve Day
Q: Much of your work brings the wilderness into focus. What about this inspires you?
Wilderness areas - wild lands - are dear to me, and recognizing their importance falls into one of the central themes I explore in my practice, "care of other". The wilderness is uniquely remarkable and forever fascinating. It's fundamentally important to all life, and needs our care. Often how we care for ourselves is reflected in how we care for "the other".
Q: What steered you in this direction?
From a small age, I loved to explore, to find and see new things for the first time was such excitement, such fun. Since high school, I've been seeking and spending time in places as different from my own as I can find. It's a tremendous feeling to venture into the unknown. With exploration in mind, I'm fascinated by natural, uncultivated land, and its achingly unique physical expression. Surface Surveys immersed me into protected wildernesses impossible to otherwise conceive. Over the past 3 years, I've been examining "care of self" ideas. 2020 brought this theme into focus in my projects, Luxuriating In Discomfort and PLEASE OBSERVE STAY HEALTHY ORDER.
Q: How did the pandemic influence your work?
In the moment I realized that my day-to-day was coming to a full stop, I knew I was going to intensely focus on my practice. As challenging and difficult as the past year was, it afforded me the freedom to take risks. Preoccupied with the pandemic and an uncertain future, it was as if no one was looking. This gave me the space to create in new directions with new ideas.
Q: Photography is a medium based on the preservation of a single moment. Are you attempting to document a changing landscape by freezing it in time?
On the one hand yes, given how rapidly we are altering the earth's surface. Surface Surveys is a record of the planet’s natural expression, unhindered yet dominated by man. They highlight the contrasts between protected and unprotected lands in our current, anthropocentric age.
Q: Why is color important to you?
I love that we live in color. Strangely, I grew up with frequent migraines from a young age that would debilitate me for whole days. The way I handled the pain was through color visualization. I spend a lot of time observing, and at times, color - its subtlety - is so striking that I feel it physically. In these moments, I feel as if I'm glimpsing something hidden.
Q: Tell me a bit about growing up in Pittsburgh and the influence it had on your work.
I grew up in industrial Pittsburgh in the 70’s and 80’s and nostalgically remember the scent of pollution on summer mornings. My father spent his career at US Steel. We drove American cars. It is was city proud of its blue collar and melting-pot constituents and still is. Growing up and experiencing life through the lens of industry, while being introduced to the idea of exotic places, catalyzed an internal need to go out and explore and, in particular, experience natural, untouched places. By mid-20’s, I was irrevocably drawn to parts unknown, particularly to open, vast, remote places.
Q: It seems that this city eventually inspired the move West to Idaho and its protected environment.
Yes, I drove to Idaho in ‘92, where I have been for the past nearly 30 years, surrounded by the one of the largest areas of protected, wild lands in the lower 48. I wanted to live in a place where the natural environment dictated the way of life and where one could really sense the physiography of the place. Our seasons are distinct. Five mountain ranges surround our town, with a river running through it. We have the nation’s only Dark Sky Preserve, and if you drive 10 minutes in any direction from town, you’re in the backcountry. I couldn't love it anymore.
Q: How about scale of your work?
I'm interested in producing works in large-scale. The wilderness environments I spend time in are vast, not just in size but in importance, and I want to translate this. Also, I feel a sense of urgency from the themes I'm exploring, and want the questions I confront in the work to be considered.
Q: Which artists are your biggest influences?
Richard Long, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Hilma af Klint, Clyfford Still, Cy Twombly.