Shared History

Shared History, Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Atlanta, GA, December 4, 2021–January 15, 2022

Steven L. Anderson’s exhibition “Shared History” presents artworks made while artist-in-residence at Blue Heron Nature Preserve. This collection shows an expansion of the artist’s Tree Rings body of work, using new materials and forms in painting and drawing to speak to growth, cosmic time, preservation, and destruction.

The Tree Rings are a way of growing a drawing: the artist draws circles that closely follow the circle before it, expanding as the rings build and bring the form into existence. Named after the number of rings/years, these meditations on growth and time provide a larger context for our lives. Where would your activities, lifespans, and histories fit into the recordings made in tree rings? These drawings are at once a violent death, a time machine, a hypnotist’s tool, an energy vortex.

The Tree Rings stack up in the Shared History and Forest pieces—the cross sections of harvested trees pile up, balancing delicately on one another, threatening to topple and roll off. The shaped canvases derive from mockups for a welded steel sculpture that Anderson will install outdoors in the Preserve later this year. This series reflects a general sense of responsibility and culpability that we are bound with, collectively, as people who live in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, Earth. Our global ecological crisis stems from local actions, like the ongoing deforestation of 50 acres a day in our metro area.

Shared History could also point to a shared future, given this year’s convergence of environmental and social justice movements to defend Atlanta’s forests. Hundreds of acres of woodland in South Atlanta’s Intrenchment Creek Park and Old Prison Farm are under attack by big business and law enforcement interests, to build an urban warfare training ground dubbed Cop City. The drive to create the Blue Heron preserve decades ago is being echoed today’s conflicts.