By Rebekah Barnes
Cliff Tresner’s Another Day Tripping Over Cypress was on exhibit in the Bethea Gallery in the School of Design at Louisiana Tech University, located in Ruston, Louisiana. Tresner’s exhibition used a variety of materials, such as wood, metal, and paint on canvas to three-dimensionally portray his abstract ecosystem of cypress knees against an installation of backgrounds of blue sky, harsh gray clouds, and green landscapes. Tresner’s works vary by size, from the smallest at 5×7 inches to the largest at 4×5 feet. This diversity of size and materials allows Tresner to merge two opposing perspectives: malleable softness and coarse hardness. Rough edges of sharp metal and hard corners of wood are juxtaposed by pliable clouds or a round, wooden stone. In addition, the high plains landscape, an allusion to Tresner’s midwestern roots, emits a tenderness in its cradling of the sharp, wooden cypress knees. This continuation of opposing perspectives is seen throughout each individual piece of the exhibit. At first glance, the eye is automatically drawn to the large landscapes on canvas, which provide an air of freedom and movement, and the centerpiece of wooden cypress knees, but quickly the viewer is drawn to the smaller, more intricate pieces that are as important to the entirety of the exhibit as the larger installations. Some miniature in scale, these pieces are also made up of landscapes on canvas, natural elements like acorn caps and a sweetgum seed pod, and suspended metal and wooden sculptures in a variety of earth tones. Most of these smaller pieces serve as ecosystems of their own when combined, an idea reinforced by having multiple pieces enclosed in wooden frames.
Reflective of the individual perspective of the viewer and their interconnectedness with the environment, each piece is individually stunning and can stand alone while simultaneously being dependent upon each other, revealing a symbolic and symbiotic ecosystem that creates a depiction of internal and external landscapes. Each piece represents our internal landscape and dialogue, but the pieces are in reply to each other, merging different perspectives and engaging in dialogue, as we do ourselves. Combined, these pieces reflect nature and its ordered chaos, which is symbolic of the sometimes tumultuous interactions among ourselves caused by opposing perspectives. Interaction is the catalyst for discourse, and the entirety of the exhibit illustrates the societal ecosystem that occurs within us and among us, demonstrating that even though we are all individuals with individual dialogues, our dialogue is a part of a larger, more complicated conversation. The two dialogues are not mutually exclusive and exist together to create one whole.
Ultimately, Tresner’s work sends you on a journey, literally “Tripping Over Cypress” as you navigate through his exhibit much like navigating societal discourse, bumping into hard edges and rough surfaces, sometimes getting caught in a tight, complicated spot, or literally wedged between a rock and a hard place, and sometimes feeling boxed in by the thick, wooden frames, but eventually finding the comforting movement of the free landscapes and learning the connection we all share, despite opposing perspectives.
Rebekah Barnes is co-owner and writer at R&M Content Writing and an English instructor at University of Louisiana at Monroe.