Wendy Given

Portland, OR
April, 2017

Wendy Given is an artist living and working in Portland, Oregon. With a production of vivid, uncanny contemporary photography, sculpture, drawing and installation, her practice stems from a profound interest guided by nature, myth and magic. Wendy’s visual craft conveys an intense yearning to honor and utilize our inherent awareness—to regain the unspoken understanding of the fact that we are all, and always will be (as humans), integral to and dependent on the natural world. Wendy studied fine art and was trained in painting, printmaking, photography and sculpture during her BFA undergraduate work at Atlanta College of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her MFA in New Genres from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, California. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and is represented by Whitespace Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia.

Wake by Wendy Given, 2010. 

Wake is important to me because it was produced during my first ever artist residency at Caldera in Eastern Oregon. The photograph is of one man, a fellow artist/writer and friend named Jason Porter who was also a resident of Caldera at the same time. He was kind enough to allow me to photograph him in my “Ghillie” hunting gear/costume in the very cold and deep snow of Caldera’s acreage that early February. It was an absolute dreamscape and the completed photograph was exactly what I had initially hoped for!

The origin of the word/name “Ghillie” is what inspired the actual art work for me. I am very interested and inspired by international folklore and myth. "In Scottish folklore the Ghillie Dhu or Gille Dubh was a solitary male faerie. He was kindly and reticent yet sometimes wild in character but had a gentle devotion to children. Dark haired and clothed in leaves and moss, he lived in a birch wood within the Gairloch and Loch a Druing area of the north-west highlands of Scotland.” (quote from Wikipedia).

I view this photograph as a multi-dimensional narrative. I believe it portrays mortality and the cyclical nature of storytelling, it is a scene of nature mourning loss, mourning our neglected kinship with the forest and all of its fantastical creatures—both real and imagined—including the loss of interspecies understanding and general human reverence for nature. I find the “Ghillie” and "Ghillie suit" fascinating because hunters, soldiers and photographers all use them for camouflaging purposes, and the name origin is that of a “wild man” or forest spirit. Wow.

One of the best things about this photograph is that I gained two of the most powerful friendships I have ever known simply by having two perfect strangers see the photograph reproduced in an Otis College of Art and Design monthly alumni magazine. The renowned artists (Gendron Jensen and Christine Taylor Patten based in Vadito, New Mexico) saw my photograph and Gendron was brought to tears and immediately sat down to write me a nine page typewritten letter about the importance of my message and the power my work holds as an invaluable steward and advocate for nature through my work. At the time, I was in a particularly low place professionally and emotionally and Gendron’s letter was an enormous, glorious and meaningful light at the end of my dim tunnel. His kind, sage words propelled my work furiously and positively forward with real purpose. The fact that two people/artists were so inspired and moved by my single image made all of the difference in my practice! Christine, Gendron and I remain good friends today and are all pen pals together. I was also extremely fortunate to be able to visit their home/studios in New Mexico this past Autumn for a day and a night, it was wonderfully intense and like meeting long lost members of my family! Amazing.

Wendy is part of the 2017 Tidelines Journey. 

"Resonating in the dark, unstable ground between consciousness and collective memory, my practice investigates the intersection of the natural world, folklore, history, myth and magic. My work possesses a keen sensibility in observing, documenting and seamlessly merging the natural with the otherworldly—or seemingly supernatural. I am deeply invested in exploring the diurnal, nocturnal and crepuscular, the nonhuman, and the wildness that resides in each of us through vivid, uncanny photographs, drawings, sculpture and installation. Within my work, nature and magic are terms prescribed to conjure the notion of the interconnectedness of all life forces as a foundation of verity, power, and mystery—both intelligible and arcane. I give significant credence to the animal kingdom, minerals, plants, earth, water and sky—the known (the familiar), the unknown and the essential. These ancient and sentient entities carry innate unspoken cues that continue to inform pivotal roles within modern life and my contemporary art production."