Five canvases are laid out in the middle of a field.
A person on a red tractor appears in the backdrop, slowly driving over the canvases and dripping hydraulic fluid onto them as it goes.
This scene, from a video of artist CV Peterson’s installation “Hydraulic Agriculture,” is one among many ways Peterson, a multidisciplinary artist who recently moved back to Eau Claire, uses art to explore the effects of humans on the environment.
“When you drive a leaky tractor, it causes grass not to grow (where the oil leaked) for about a year, but after a year the earth has healed and it comes back, potentially stronger,” Peterson said. “Through this installation is this exploration a little bit of how ecosystems adapt to the human condition.”
Three of the canvases — made with only hydraulic fluid, oil, dirt and tractor wheels — can be seen for the next month at 200 Main Gallery, 200 Main St.
Peterson’s work is part of the gallery’s exhibit, “Forms and Experiments,” which runs through Feb. 11.
Also featured are stone carvings by Kate Bradley, a Wausau-based artist who primarily uses soapstone and alabaster to create sculptures. This exhibit focuses primarily on sculptures of goddesses and animals, each with their own symbolic meanings.
Gallery co-owner Jo Ellen Burke said she paired the two artists in her mind immediately when she saw their work.
“Kate is a saged artist, and I see CV as a very up-and-coming artist,” Burke said. “Between them I saw a uniqueness in the differences of their work, but they are both very organic, earthbound and spiritual.”
Both Peterson and Bradley will be at an artist reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the gallery.
Burke introduced the two artists recently and asked them to be part of the show together. Peterson wasn’t familiar with Bradley’s work prior, but thinks the two juxtapose each other well.
“I view Kate’s art as being a celebration of nature, that returning to the earth and the celebration of the female body,” Peterson said. “Mine is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a little more dystopic. I deal a lot with pollutants.”
Much of the material Peterson uses is non biodegradable, such as plastics. She explores the material’s complex interactions with humans — we couldn’t live without these materials, but at the same time, they are harming our environment.
“I’m not saying we should not have these materials, but it is playing with the human and earth elements and how they coexist, how the conversation goes back and forth,” Peterson said.
Peterson, who received her Master of Fine Arts and Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has also studied in Japan and performed in New Zealand and Prague. Much of her work involves large art installations and video elements.
She also has conducted intense research on the environment and considers the experimentation of her projects, or the process, to be as important as the resulting piece.
That, Burke said, is how they came up with the name for the exhibit.
“This isn’t an impulsive, cute thing to do,” Burke said of Peterson’s work. “It has got a lot of depth to the story behind it, and I just think it’s impressive.”
Bradley’s stone carvings are also based on research of astrology and symbolism, according to her website.
Sculptures of rabbits, for example, bring luck, magical power, success and abundance, while dragons offer protection, strength and courage, according to her biography.
Each carving is made “taille directe,” which she said on her website means she carves “directly into the stone without first making a model from another medium such as clay or plaster.”
Combining 25 pieces of Peterson’s and Bradley’s work together has created an “aesthetically beautiful environment,” Burke said of 200 Main Gallery’s exhibit.
More than that, though, Burke hopes the exhibit sparks conversations about the earth and environment. That is also Peterson’s goal.
“As an artist, I like people to come in and wonder why a little bit,” Peterson said. “I like pushing one’s mental boundaries, and I feel like both Kate and my work does that.”
Contact reporter: 715-833-9214, firstname.lastname@example.org, @KatherineMacek on Twitter