Catharine Clark Gallery opens its 2024 program with solo exhibitions by Chris Doyle and Chester Arnold that powerfully reflect on nature, memory, loss, and healing. Doyle’s exhibition, You Should Lie Down Now and Remember the Forest, is on view in the South Gallery and Media Room and features watercolors, animation, and installation. Arnold’s exhibition of paintings, Tributaries, is on view in the North Gallery, with additional drawings on view in Exit.
Chris Doyle’s work often meditates on regenerative life cycles and the tension between destruction and repair. In 2017, Doyle concluded a multi-year project responding to Hudson River painter Thomas Cole’s five-painting series, The Course of Empire (1833 - 1836). The project imagined a landscape transforming from an agrarian space into a densely built environment, turning to ruin through overpopulation and pollution. In his previous exhibition, The Parables of Correction (2020), Doyle created intricately rendered animations and watercolors depicting a futuristic factory with strange machines and alien-like assembly line workers.
Conceived during the COVID-19 pandemic, it emerged from a global moment that redefined shared concepts of progress, slowness, isolation, and connection. You Should Lie Down Now and Remember the Forest – on view in the South Gallery and Media Room – builds on Doyle’s earlier work around landscape and memory. It evocatively depicts a forest transitioning through seasons and cycles of growth across three series of works. The exhibition prompts reflection on collective and personal losses during COVID-19, as well as the potential for new life and beginnings arising from loss.
Doyle began the watercolor series “The Newly Fallen” (2020 – present) after observing an unusually high number of uprooted trees at his home in Maine. He notes:
Every year, the forest where I live loses several old-growth trees to storms and high winds. In Spring 2020, at the height of the pandemic, I noticed more fallen trees than normal. As I mourned the loss of each tree, I also mourned the loss of my elders who died during the pandemic from COVID-19.
In response to this overwhelming loss, Doyle created large format drawings, rendered in monochrome watercolor and mounted to panels, depicting fallen trees in the forest. Each drawing serves as a memorial to a friend or mentor who passed during the pandemic. Doyle’s drawings, both haunting and awe-inspiring in scale, create a contemplative space that invites us to consider life’s precarity and beauty. Doyle hints at signs of life in each drawing, writing: “I found myself marveling at the new growth springing from these fallen trees. Each drawing, by extension, is both a memorial to a fallen elder and a tribute to the continued impact that their lives will inspire.”
Doyle’s three-channel animation Junglegym, accompanied by a score by Todd Griffin, draws on the artist’s evolving sensory experiences of forests and trees from childhood to adulthood. Doyle notes: “Junglegym focuses on the impossibility of separating my exuberant childhood memories of forests from our present understanding of climate change. Through animation, I explore the fluidity of memory and interweave my childhood associations with a constellation of cultural information.”
Doyle’s projection-based installation Nightwatch, by comparison, combines barrier grid animation, a 19th-century animation technique, with digital projection to create an immersive experience in the gallery’s Media Room that evokes a forest at night. Light projects onto an interlaced digital image, revealing an unseen energy that pushes the limits of our sensory experience and perception.