Aspen TImes Weekly: Seeing the Forest for ‘Forever’
If You Go ….
What: ‘Works on Forever,’ Tony Prikryl
Where: Wyly Annex, Basalt
When: Through Nov. 21
More info: www.wylyarts.org
Every artist in the Colorado high country has some aspen trees in their portfolio. The trees are remarkable looking and, of course, they’re everywhere you look in and around Aspen.
But every once in a while an artist does something with aspens that can make you see them differently, make you think about them – and the landscape – with a new perspective. Tony Prikryl’s phototgraphs, “Works on Forever,” are that kind of artwork.
The large format photos in his exhilarating new body of work – included in a solo show at the Wyly Annex that opened Oct. 23 – at first appear to look like single snowflakes or crystal chandeliers. Look a little closer, though, and you realize that these are bare tree branches, coated perfectly in snow and ice, mirrored against themselves and set against mostly bluebird Colorado skies.
Prikryl, based in Aspen, where he runs the fine art printing studio White Room Imaging, spent two winters photographing trees – mostly on Aspen Mountain. He knew the aesthetic he wanted – an even white icy coating of branches that happens on a certain clear, cold, windless morning after a snowfall. Those perfect mornings were less frequent than Prikryl imagined.
“When I first started, I thought I’d do it in a couple weeks, a couple snow storms,” he told me on a walk-through of the show before its opening. “But it took a year and a half from the time I took the first one.”
Of course, for this avid skier, that meant often spending time shooting photos rather than skiing on mornings with fresh snow on the mountain.
“It was a hard tradeoff,” Prikryl says with a laugh. “You suffer for your art, I guess.”
He wanted the images to invoke fractals and torsion fields of self-sustaining energy.
“That’s where it all started, thinking about fields of energy and geometry that’s fractal and universal in all nature, looping onto itself,” Prikryl says.
His Wyly show also includes work on film, in which sections of painted film strips are mounted on a wall. They allow you to see the images on the film as well as their shadows on the gallery wall. Prikryl, who studied with the legendary experimental filmmaker James Brakhage at the University of Colorado, sees that work playing into the same idea – a film strip, in motion, loops like the energy he invoked in the “Works on Forever” photographs.
The most recent works in the show are a pair of “Weaves,” which weave together photographs of plants – taken at night – around Aspen and Independence Pass. He sees them as larger versions of the natural fractals depicted in the “Works on Forever” series.
“The weaves are magnifications of those perfect forms,” he says. “If you compound them enough, they turn into leaves and plants and trees.”
Like the “Works on Forever,” a pair of photographs in his “Storm” series trick the mind’s eye’s perception of snow and forest. One appears to be a starry night sky, but turns out to be snowflakes falling against the darkness. The second is an overhead shot of a grove of trees on Independence Pass – they’re captured in morning, with their shadows falling uniformly, giving them an unusual sense of motion and menace. It’s the least peaceful photo of a snowy forest you’re likely to find.
“It’s like an army coming down the hill,” Prikryl says.
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Many locations on Basalt Mountain were barren as recently as two months ago. However, nutrients unlocked during the Lake Christine Fire and a wet winter have sparked a remarkable recovery. Aspen Center for Environmental Studies is leading fire ecology tours to discuss the changes.