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Ryan Burns

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1974- Lives inOregon.


"My artistic practice is informed by early explorations in Ohio creek beds, peeling back shale strata in search of fossils. My work is still in the vein of the amateur natural historian. Since the nineties I have explored assemblage, painting, collage and installation. Unlike a 19th century landscape painter whose concern is representing tranquility and leisure, mine is that of contemplation and investigation into the anthropocence and its effects on the contemporary natural world.


I cull materials from consumer debris: billboard fragments, coloring book pages, urban plans that becomes the matrix of the gravestone-like rubbings of the felled trees’ growth rings. The collages are mounted on heavy canvas and reworked. The series began in 1999 Documenting old growth timber sales on the west coast. A year later while living in New Orleans I began to expand the conceptual backing of  previous experimental work influenced by Max Ernst’s frottages. I wanted to document the state of our diminishing forests by recording the growth rings of unique trees; proxy indicators of ancient climate conditions when decoded by dendroclimatologists.

I converted a decommissioned ambulance to run on used vegetable oil and drove it to remote timber sales in the Pacific Northwest as a tongue in cheek illustration the role of deforestation and fossil fuel emissions on our changing climate. As I drove from Louisiana, I scavenged restaurant waste oil for fuel and salvaged paper such as billboard remnants, blueprints, coloring books, and maps for materials. I took these to clear cuts where with crayon I documented the impressions of the individual fingerprints of each tree stump, the chainsaw markings and particular pecularities. I made several of these trips up until Hurricane Katrina changed them I moved back to Oregon.

My recent work Climate Proxies includes rubbings taken from historic trees in NYC that were downed in Hurricane Sandy, from a small tornado in Prospect Park in 2010 and in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina."