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Ally Wilber: Artist in Residence at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

May 29, 2024  |  Topics: featured artist


The Natural Realm presents Ally Wilber, who is among 12 artists participating in a year-long residency program called ARTservancy, a collaboration between Gallery 224 in Port Washington and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy, Tall Pines Conservancy, and Lake Michigan Bird Observatory. The mission of ARTservancy is to promote the visionary work of both the artists and conservationists. Each artist has selected a preserve to spend time in and to engage with.

Artist Statement by Ally Wilber

My artwork is an investigation of visual magic.

I’m interested in organic forms; the bumps and folds, the porous bits, and the diaphanous, bioluminescent structures in nature. I exploit these textural qualities through an intuitive and experimental process called fumage; a surrealist technique of mark making with soot and flame. There is something invigorating and teaching about working with a medium that cannot be controlled; a process that is both destructive and creative.

Augury. Soot on paper, 16"x16"
Augury, 2024 Soot on paper, 16 x 16 in.

ARTservancy residency: “Cycles of Destruction and Regeneration”

For my ARTservancy term I chose to study controlled burns, utilizing the technique of fumage (fire painting) and charcoal drawing to capture both the destructive power and regenerative potential of fire, as well as create a direct material connection between the artwork and the land management practice. The resulting installation became a metaphorical representation of cycles of creation and destruction in the natural world, inviting the viewer to contemplate themes of impermanence and regeneration on our lands.

Controlled burns have been a significant practice for hundreds of years, beginning as an indigenous tradition, for maintaining healthy ecosystems, reducing the risks of wildfire, and promoting biodiversity, while also removing invasive plant species. Also called a prescribed burn, the act is carefully curated to reap the benefits of a fire, without the risk of forest destruction.

Plume, 2023 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.

My fumage work is created by directly manipulating flames and soot on paper, which then produces dynamic and expressive forms that capture the elemental energy of fire in its rawest form. Each piece is a collaboration between myself and the natural elements, resulting in one-of-a-kind compositions that cannot be replicated.

Cycles of Destruction and Regeneration, 2024 Charcoal on paper 32 x 40 in.
Cycles of Destruction and Regeneration, 2024 Charcoal on paper 32 x 40 in.

For charcoal drawing, I forged and collected my own charcoal from the remnants of a controlled fire pit, turning the remnants of destruction into a medium for creation. The charcoal contributes to the atmospheric quality of my drawing, evoking the smoky ambiance of a burn site and embodying the very essence of the controlled burn process. There is a visceral connection inherent in using charcoal from flames to depict flames, imbuing the raw energy from the fire into the charred sticks, then into the drawing itself.

Not only are these works an exploration of fire’s multifaceted significance, but also they highlight the cyclical nature of destruction and regeneration in our environments, both wild and controlled.

Gallery

Knot, 2023 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Knot, 2023 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Climb, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Climb, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Ghost Bones, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Ghost Bones, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Lush, 2024 Oil on panel 9 × 12 in.
Lush, 2024 Oil on panel 9 × 12 in.
Deity of Grief, 2024 Soot and gold leaf on paper 32 × 40 in.
Deity of Grief, 2024 Soot and gold leaf on paper 32 × 40 in.
Phoenix, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Phoenix, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Betwixt, 2024 Oil on panel 9 × 12 in.
Betwixt, 2024 Oil on panel 9 × 12 in.
Phantom, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Phantom, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Thrum, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Thrum, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Oh, So Tired, 2022 Soot and gold leaf on paper 16 × 20 in.
Oh, So Tired, 2022 Soot and gold leaf on paper 16 × 20 in.
Iambic, 2023 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Iambic, 2023 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Instability, 2023 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Instability, 2023 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Bend, 2023 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Bend, 2023 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Pyre, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.
Pyre, 2024 Soot on paper 16 × 20 in.

Bio

I am a Wisconsin artist, writer, and curator who specializes in the surrealist technique of fumage, or fire painting.

ARTservancy Artist in Residence Ally Wilber.
ARTservancy Artist in Residence Ally Wilber. Photo by Eddee Daniel

I currently work as Executive Director for the artist nonprofit Wisconsin Visual Artists (WVA). I have previous experience curating large-scale art events and exhibitions for the Museum of Wisconsin Art. My first curatorial project was Legends of Drag, with the coinciding drag show event “Legends Live” being named Milwaukee’s best event in 2022. I am passionate about providing support and opportunities for artists throughout the state. I live in Appleton, Wisconsin with two cats and a white python.

Website: www.allywilber.com
Instagram: @smokenouveau

This residency was sponsored by Ozaukee Washington Land Trust. To learn more about Forest Beach Migratory Preserve go to our Find-a-Park page.

Related stories:

A controlled burn at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Vicki Reed: Artist in Residence at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Karen and Patrick Robison: Artists in Residence at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Kelly Alexander: Artist in Residence at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Nicole Shaver: Artist in Residence at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Ellen Anderson: Artist in Residence at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

D’Lacey Eichinger: Artist in Residence at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

This is the latest in our series of featured artists, which is intended to showcase the work of photographers, artists, writers and other creative individuals in our community whose subjects or themes relate in some broad sense to nature, urban nature, people in nature, etc. To see a list of previously featured artists, click here. The work of the 2022-2023 ARTservancy artists in residence is currently being exhibited monthly at Gallery 224. Ally Wilber is one of the 2022-23 cohort of residents. To meet the other ARTservancy artists in residence, click here.

All images courtesy of the artist, except as noted. The featured photo at the top of Ally Wilber is by Eddee Daniel. Ozaukee Washington Land Trust is a project partner of A Wealth of Nature.


One thought on "Ally Wilber: Artist in Residence at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve"

  1. Susan Endes says:

    This is a new and fascinating process for me. I would love to see a video of the process, or the artist at work. It is so mysterious.

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