For more than a quarter-century, internationally recognized British artist Chris Drury has used the materials and processes of nature in his work. Drury’s lyrical, often temporary installations mimic patterns that already exist in the natural world. Spark visits with Drury as he prepares a series of works for a six-week residency at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California, culminating in a show called “Whorls: Installationsby Chris Drury,” an indoor and outdoor exhibition featuring three site-specific nature-based installations.
Of Drury’s projects at Montalvo, the most ambitious is “Redwood Vortex,” an installation in the redwood groves above the complex. With the help of assistants, Drury created a spiraling vortex of willow branches that surrounds one of the area’s towering redwoods. The installation reaches more than 60 feet above the ground. Drury decided on the spiral form in order to express the flow of sap, which follows a corkscrew movement up the tree’s trunk. The project proved to be no simple task, as the branches that Drury chose turned out to be less supple than expected, and the team spent a month in the redwoods building the vortex.
Much of Drury’s work explores connections between common shapes and movements that can be found in the natural world as well as in our own bodies. In addition to “Redwood Vortex,” Drury produced indoor works for the center’s gallery that examine these concordances. Two of these works are based on the cardiac twist, a double spiral pattern that describes the movement of blood in the human heart, a pattern that can also be found in fingerprints as well as in many places in nature.
For the large “Fingerprint Mural,” Drury projected images of fingerprints onto a wall, then had his assistant paint latex onto the white areas and paint the wall with dirt. When the latex was removed, the result was a series of interwoven fingerprints painted with materials that refer to the pattern’s prevalence in nature. Drury reused the cardiac twist in a floor piece called “Sequoia Whirlpool,” in which sequoia sticks are arranged in a double vortex pattern around a stone, again emphasizing the commonality of the form in both the human body and the natural landscape.
More about Montalvo Arts Center
The Montalvo Arts Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to forging meaningful connections between art and artists and the communities it serves, through creation, presentation and education. The organization was founded in 1930, when Senator James Duval Phelan left the 175-acre property, including a stunning villa, to the people of California for the encouragement of art, music literature and architecture. In 2005, the organization changed its name from Montalvo to Montalvo Arts Center to commemorate its 75th year as an arts center and to better communicate its mission to expanding local, national and international audiences.
Where: 15400 Montalvo Rd., Saratoga
Phone: (408) 961-5800