The three dimensional paintings Donald Morgan produces are isolated vignettes appropriated from the larger sphere of the local landscape. Showing this work in Ditch Projects, an artist run project space in the midst of a defunct lumber mill, only adds to the sense of regionalism in this exhibition. It is difficult to enter the space without considering the area that surrounds it. Walk out of Ditch and you find yourself greeted with a scene straight out of the opening credits of Twin Peaks. Deer roam the outlying fields and fir trees cover the hills beyond the mill.
Donald Morgan's previous work has also involved his relationship to the outdoors, to experiences with recognizable materials and subject matter. The work in Dark Moon Rising consists of paintings, sculptures, and collages, clearly representational in some instances (Gothic Fir, and less so in others (Riser and Negative Pool). It is as if he rummaged through cast off lumber, combined his paintings with the former, tore everything to bits, and put it back together under a full moon in the middle of a wooded area.
Often such regionalism can lend itself to the didactic; fortunately this is not the case in his work. In fact, he has managed to bring the outside in, but only to a point. With the exception of the symmetry of Web I / Web II and Gothic Fir, Dark Moon Rising is cacophonous when considering the solitude and contemplative attributes generally ascribed to the idea of experiencing nature. He manages to combine the humorous, recognizable and something equally off-putting and ominous.
Gothic Fir most notably combines all of those elements. The secular representation of Christmas, painted black, led me to laugh out loud upon viewing it for the first time. I recognized the humor in it, and mistakenly referred to it as the "Gothic Christmas tree". These objects become schematized outlines, acting as symbols for the actual object, as roughly constructed as props for a school play. Later viewings had my focus change from the amusing to something a bit more sinister. There is something inherently twisted about taking lumber and reconstructing a totem to its former self: cutting down pine and processing it, only to reconstruct it again.
Riser and Negative Pool are the prime examples of Donaldâ€™s nearly clinical removal from the natural world. Who recently has actually walked among the trees and run into a spider web? The two pieces mirror each other and their construction seems designed to emulate an experience many have had with nature: the observance of it through the windows of a car.
"Black Moon Rising" was on view until October 3rd at Ditch Projects, located at 303 S. 5th Ave., in Springfield, OR.
All images are courtesy of the artist and Ditch Projects.