Aaron Lish
Aaron Lish and work from Sea Self-Portraits

Aaron Lish
Bend, Oregon, USA
June 30 – July 25, 2014

Think Like an Animal!
Environmental Artist seeking participants

Three Scheduled Events:

Aaron Lish
Aaron Lish, the artist often constructs devices that allows for wind, waves or rivers to “draw” their own self-portraits.

Environmental Artist Presentation with Aaron Lish
Wednesday, July 9, 7 pm
Allan Brooks Nature Centre

The Allan Brooks Nature Centre will host a talk by artist Aaron Lish, from Bend, Oregon. Lish investigates relationships between art and the environment, incorporating elements of performance and theatre, drawing, painting, and installation. Aaron will give a presentation on his past work and present project.

Portraiture in Nature Workshop
Saturday, July 12, 10 – 3 pm ~ Bring a Lunch!
Caetani Gardens, 3401 Pleasant Valley Road

Bring a lunch to the Caetani Gardens and join us for a workshop investigating new approaches to nature and self-portraiture. How do we capture a snapshot of nature in art? When nature based works have fallen out of vogue – how do we make them relevant again? Can nature produce it’s own self-portraits? This workshop is designed for both artists and non-artists of any level and no experience is necessary. Register online at www.caetani.ca or call 250-275-1525.

Think Like an Animal!
Participatory Environmental Art Project
Saturday, July 19, 6 – 8:30 pm. Location TBA – possibly Kal Lake Park

Using GPS tracking systems, participants will go on a self-guided interpretive hike and become part of a larger investigation into the behaviour of our favourite wild animals by “becoming” one and tracking their movements. The results will be printed out onto paper and included in a larger final art piece. This workshop is designed for both artists and non-artists of any level and no experience is necessary. Location TBA. Register online at www.caetani.ca or call 250-275-1525.

Calling all nature lovers, artists, and performers!

Have you ever wondered how it would be to think like an animal? How do we capture a snapshot of nature in art? When nature based works have fallen out of vogue – how do we make them relevant again? Can nature produce it’s own self-portraits?

Join artist Aaron Lish on Wednesday, July 9 at 7 pm, for an illustrated presentation of his past work and discussion of his current participatory environmental art project, as part of the Allan Brooks Nature Centre and the Caetani Cultural Centre’s Fresh! AiR program partnership.

Lish’s work combines art and science in innovative ways that involve community participation, performance, the environment and art. As part of his explorations, Lish has sometimes even built simple machines that allow rivers, waves and wind to draw their own self-portraits, thus giving nature a “voice”. The talk will be held at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre.

Aaron Lish and Aaron Deans, Okanagan
Aaron Lish (left) is welcomed to the Allan Brooks Nature Centre by director Aaron Deans.

Lish will also present a series of two workshops on Saturday, July 12 and Saturday, July 19. The workshops are intended to explore the natural environment and wildlife in the North Okanagan, investigating new ways of seeing our natural surroundings and its inhabitants, and the works produced will be incorporated into a final art work. Each workshop is designed for both artists and non-artists of any level, and no experience is necessary. Just bring your enthusiasm and have some fun!Aaron Lish is currently Artist in Residence at the Caetani Centre, and will be working extensively with the Allan Brooks Nature Centre. He has a background in outdoor leadership and Sport Science from Northern University and also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, Boston, MA. He has taught as an outdoor educator at a community college in Bend, Oregon, where he currently lives and works.

Artist Statement:

Imagine how interesting, and complex, the world would be if “every natural system had an inner life, a conscious center, from which it directs and observes its action” (Krieglstein 2002:118).  My work plays with this idea as I give natural systems a voice through their creating of self-portraits.

Participatory art has a century-long history of being an art of empowerment – a way to empower the participants.  This can be seen in participatory theater in the early years of the Soviet Union, then in Argentina in the 1960s, in eastern Europe in the 1970s, and in Cuba in the 2000s.  With my latest work, the proposal for Art in the Open in Philadelphia, I am using participation as a tool for empowerment in a new and different way.  Here, the river becomes the participant as it undertakes the creative act and shows us a glimpse of its “conscious center”.

It isn’t that I necessarily believe in quantum animism, but rather I enjoy wondering “What if?”  And that is what this new work is meant to do, to provoke wonder in the viewer, to cause her to ask, “What if…?”        ~ Aaron Lish


Aaron Lish grew up in rural, northern Idaho, U.S.A., where he developed a passion for the outdoors. This passion eventually evolved into a 15-year career as an outdoor educator at a community college in Bend, Oregon, where he still lives. Three years ago he took a bold leap, resigned his tenure at the college, and went back to school. Aaron earned his MFA in Visual Art from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in June 2013.

Growing up Aaron did not see himself as being a creative individual, but rather as a math and science geek. It wasn’t until much later that he began to explore his creativity by studying sculpture and drawing. However, he quickly found that he wanted his work to be more socially-minded, which lead first to installation work, and then eventually to participatory projects, many of which have been dialogue based.

Aaron’s recent participatory projects have included gallery-based interactive installations, like Play-time and an Open Office Culture (2013). For Play-time, Aaron re-created the Rec Room from Google’s Boston campus in the Pence Gallery, a college art gallery in Oregon. Here students could enjoy free snacks and unwind playing ping pong during dead-week and final exams.   But his love of the outdoors has lead to producing off-site, dialogue-based projects as well, including Play and Idle Creativity (2013), where he and a small group of participants spent three days camped in a former nuclear fallout shelter discussing theoretical future-threats to humanity, and whether there is anything that can be done to prevent them.

Aaron has organized projects around the greater Boston, MA area, including one hosted by Mobius in Cambridge, and one at the Art Institute of Boston. In Boston he also worked with Cesare Pietroiusti on “Transient Possession” (2012) at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Elsewhere in the U.S., he has held projects at Champlain College in Burlington, VT, and at various locations around Oregon, as well as online (see Do It DIY on Facebook). Aaron looks forward to expanding his work into more communities, large and small, around the globe, with tentative plans for a river self-portrait project (see below) in New Zealand in March.

Most recently Aaron’s interests in the benefits of participatory art and his passion for the natural world have recombined in a new way. In a search for new poetics he has begun to explore aesthetic ways of capturing the movements of natural, inanimate things as a way to animate them – to give them a voice. Such art draws from the process art movement of the 1960s-70s in the United States. However, Aaron refers to these works as self-portraits of the natural systems that create them, suggesting that it is not just about the process, but that it is also about promoting new ways of seeing the natural systems themselves.

Aaron will be an artist-in-residence at the Shangyuan Art Museum in Beijing, China later this year where he plans to explore Chinese cultural history and animism as a way to expand how he approaches this new form of participatory art.

Watch Aaron’s ‘Cross-Cultural Exchange’ video. 

Allan Brooks Nature CentreThanks to Aaron Deans and the Allan Brooks Nature Centre for providing endless studio space for all our Fresh! AiR artists.