In August 2019, Ashland artist Claire Duncan was invited to exhibit a solo art show at Coos Art Museum in Coos Bay. She immediately thought viewer reaction to her work could be enhanced by accompanying poetry. Naturalist and poet Pepper Trail was an obvious choice — and he agreed. Almost two years of intense work on a body of paintings and poetry ensued.
In Reflections on the Human Epoch, Duncan continues her series of paintings last exhibited at Ashland’s Hanson Howard Gallery. The work responds to questions of what it means to be human at a time when our own actions threaten the very nature that inspires us.
The creatures that inhabit Duncan’s paintings appear to bear witness to the after-effects of human impact and give silent judgment. Viewers are left to choose between the comforting, even sublime, experience of immersive nature and the anxiety we face when confronted with the consequences of human activity.
Pepper Trail’s poetry extends and amplifies the themes posed by the paintings. Rather than “captions,” they present ideas on their own, which work in tandem with the visual art.
Pepper Trail’s writing has appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Cascadia Review and other publications, and has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net awards. His collection Cascade-Siskiyou was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.
Claire Duncan’s work has appeared in exhibitions nationwide, including Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum's Birds in Art, and has won numerous awards, including first place in The Artist’s Magazine’s All Media Competition (Wildlife). A video segment on her work has appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Oregon Art Beat and on PBS Newshour’s CANVAS website.
Reflections on the Human Epoch, with paintings by Duncan and poetry by Trail, will be exhibited at Coos Art Museum in Coos Bay from July 17 to October 2.
The work can also be viewed at https://cduncan100.wixsite.com/humanepoch.