A hanging garden awaits, beckoning with its strong, curving branches, verdant foliage and draping vines of—paint? This synthesis of nature and human participation leads the viewer into Catherine Forster’s installation, “They Call Me Theirs.” Forster extracted images of trees from her own digital film stills, then modified them manually with drips and squiggles of paint reminiscent of Jackson Pollock, before digitizing the final images and printing them on aluminum sign panels. Her goal, stated Forster, was to create a scene “that was more lush than nature could actually provide.” Next Forster invites the viewer to enter a “cabin,” more appropriately labeled a minimalist prefab, complete with the smell of fresh Home Depot lumber. Indoors, the viewer is drawn to the video playing on a tiny screen perfectly sized for private viewing. Looped video runs through Forster’s scenic documentation of the four seasons in the area around her home and Midwestern nature preserves, while digitally manipulated audio projects from two sources provide the expected sounds of nature, such as buzzing bees, cawing crows and wind rustling through trees. Forster admitted that the sound system was the most complicated part of her installation, as, tellingly, she had difficulty recording audio that did not include human noise. Her close-up shots of nature exacerbate the sense of confinement created by the small cabin. The video does not present a continuous journey through one environment, but rather distinct encounters with nature, distilled by human and digital mediation. In sum, Forster tidily encapsulates the human experience of nature in all its artificial glory. (Karen Huang)
Through October 5 at Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell.