Sara Tabbert: Lowlands
February 4 - April 7, 2020
About This Exhibition
The Alaska State Museum awards solo exhibitions to individual Alaskan artists. Artists are selected biannually and their artwork is exhibited in the temporary galleries of the museum in the Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building in Juneau.
Fairbanks-based artist Sara Tabbert creates woodblock prints, carved panels, and sculptures that reveal often overlooked subjects and environments. Tabbert’s solo exhibition Lowlands highlights new sculptural skills and techniques and explores the strange and beautiful landscapes of interior Alaska.
"In nature there is brutality, misshapenness, and loneliness. The natural world does not bend to accommodate us. This is particularly true in the lowlands." - Sara Tabbert
Tabbert gave a lecture at the Alaska State Museum on Friday, February 7. The lecture was recorded for later broadcast by 360North in partnership with our local radio station KTOO. It is also available on YouTube.
In Lowlands I am exhibiting new work that reflects my relationship to Goldstream Valley, my large backyard north of Fairbanks. Though specific in my mind, these lowlands are not unlike thousands of other acres of poorly drained permafrost and black spruce throughout Interior Alaska. These are not the lands of an Alaska tourist brochure. They are cold in the winter, wet in the summer, mosquito-haunted, and visually relentless in their endless forests of stunted trees. It’s not the easiest landscape to live in and love. However, I’ve never equated love with ease or perfection. In nature there is brutality, misshapenness, and loneliness. The natural world does not bend to accommodate us. This is particularly true in the lowlands.
The basins between the hills and mountains are places of enormous beauty. Every tree that grows on the inhospitable permafrost takes a unique shape. Waterways produce overflow ice even in the coldest weather, foiling travel and creating evolving sculptures. The muskeg is home to an infinite variety of plants, grasses, berries and wildlife, including bears, muskrats, shrews, and sandhill cranes. I’ve had the disorienting pleasure of being lost on my own land. I think of it as a place that puts up with my presence, but barely. It can hinder my control in a thousand ways, which somehow seems only fair.
These lowlands are also home to people, some who have settled here by choice and others by economic necessity. A lack of building codes and a tradition of doing-it-yourself leads to both unique but sometimes inadequate, even dangerous, structures. In the lowlands, we give our neighbors space and don’t ask too many questions. For in addition to pleasant trails, recreational dog teams, and tidy log houses, there are drugs, abuse, junkyards, guns, and abandoned dreams. These lowlands are all these things at the same time—beauty, difficulty, occasionally desperation. Through my work, I attempt to get beneath Alaska’s overly edited myths to try and understand the whole.
This exhibition was made possible in part by a 2019 Fellowship from the Rasmuson Foundation.