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Doug Fitch: Human/Nature

August 24, 2024 — October 31, 2024


Doug Fitch: mixed media 

(August 24 - Oct 31)

Doug Fitch will present a sculpture exhibition in memory of Hillary Walton, a violinist, a scientist, and a literature professor. The exhibition will consist of once living trees and amazing samples of Walton’s unique shoe collection and will reflect on nature and human interference with it. 

I doubt very much that cavemen were ever asked what they did for a living – staying alive was their living. These days, what we do to make a living sometimes seems more important than what we do to make our lives worth living. Living life in the grey zone between distinct, socially accepted delineations - the quicksand of uncertainty - is not easy. A brilliant friend of mine whose uncategorizable career trajectory had her navigating a world between the known pigeonholes, struggled to align her indefatigable curiosity with how others perceived its manifestations, and when she could no longer sustain the strength for that battle, tragically took her own life one day.   

This project is dedicated to my friend.  She was an excellent violinist who also studied frogs.  She recorded frog songs around the world, taught literature, mastered the art of baking, wore poodle skirts and succumbed to a fetish for shoes. In fact, she amassed an impressive collection of shoes, and in the end, for whatever reason - willed them all to me, hoping I could turn them into art.  I have been wondering how to give these shoes a new meaning – to reincarnate them if you will, and materialize an homage worthy of her special quirky brilliance.  

I am finding trees which have branched off in ways that make them resemble human legs. I am cutting them leg-length, then turning them upside-down, arboreal mannequin-style and setting them into Hillary’s shoes. The result is a surprising juxtaposition. Trees don’t wear shoes, so seeing them do so hopefully invites us to question how we think about ourselves as part of nature. Many of her shoes have animal prints. Some are stilettos. Humans strut about in heels or toe shoes, flauntingly disregarding the laws of gravity.  Appropriating nature’s patterns by sporting leopard spots or zebra stripes, we hope to enable or unleash some kind of wild nature-power within us. Protection from touching the natural world is only the smallest reason we buy the shoes we buy.  Also, shoes are the most sculptural of clothing. Everything around us is only the way we see it because of the way we’ve learned to, thus anything can be taken for granted.  Hillary loved finding ways not to. This project is about remembering her work to celebrate things like shoes and frog songs, and for unturning every interesting stone along her way in life, just in case it revealed a new truth.