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The Wilds

2010, Gouache and Graphite on Paper, 11.5" x 8.5", Gala Bent, SPU Assistant Professor of Art

By Hannah Notess

The Wilds

Gala Bent usually sees nature as a place for solitude and contemplation and the city as a place for community and artistic collaboration. But on hikes with her family last fall, Bent began to notice how much of the city she carried with her. "I had a baby on my back in a backpack, which is very city-like, and I was texting a friend," she says.

These excursions into the natural world got her thinking about the traces of civilization we see in the wilderness — diverted water- falls, human-built trails — and the traces of wilderness we see in urban environments — tree roots pushing up the sidewalk. In her drawing "The Wilds," a lush, overgrown mountain displays a culvert, a smoke- stack, and books that are "little carriers of knowledge."

"The Wilds" is part of "O Mountain," a series of drawings that feature the shape of a singular, solitary mountain with a twist. Sometimes the mountain becomes the top of a colorful iceberg. Sometimes it seems to have a personality. Does the shape of the mountain look familiar?

"This is my fifth year in Seattle, and living under Mount Rainier for this long, I can’t even avoid it," Bent says. "It crept up on me." Though she grew up outside Detroit, she dreamed as a child about discovering a range of mountains in her urban backyard.

"Now I don’t have that dream anymore," she says, "Because living in Seattle, it’s kind of come true."