Arts July 10, 2024

A Societal SHIFT

Lisa Wood’s artistic commentary on our modern world

As a multidisciplinary artist and an observer of our rapidly changing world, Lisa Wood’s art reflects her growing engagement with the critical themes defining the 21st century. Wood’s connection to the natural world runs deep, fostered by her love for Sun Valley, which she’s called home for over three decades. She credits Sun Valley’s proximity to wilderness and the area’s Dark Sky Reserve designation as influences behind her work.

Wood began her artistic career in photography with a six-part body of work titled “Surface Surveys” (2015-2019). Then came a pivotal moment in the 2020 pandemic. The unprecedented event that brought the developed world to a standstill prompted Wood to partner with World Land Trust, a global conservation charity, to align her artistic vision with the WLT’s practical mission of safeguarding vulnerable wilderness acres around the world.

Sun Valley, long celebrated for its luxurious amenities set against an awe-inspiring landscape, serves as more than a backdrop for Wood’s work. It’s her catalyst, inspiring exploration into the contradiction of luxury and the conflict between our collective fate and quest for personal fulfillment. Wood uses works such as “SHIFT,” (2024) “Luxuriate in Discomfort” (2018-2021), “HUMUS” (2021), and “Twenty-first Century in Black and White” (2021) to exemplify these curiosities. Each project, rooted in personal experience and the broader narrative of 21st-century anxieties, examines the role of the individual in shaping societal purpose and fostering its sustainability.

Wood has seen Sun Valley’s ecology “shift” during her thirty years. The rise of smoke and fire season in August and September, and a noticeable decline in local bird populations are a couple of concerns that Wood said allowed her to “come to understand the direct link between my habits and our environmental changes. My work now reflects an urgency and commitment to embedding measurable impact into my projects.”

In Wood’s recent project, “SHIFT” (2024), unveiled at midnight on New Year’s Eve at the National Mall, she reimagines freedom for the 21st century via the site and time-specific public art installation. At a time when individual decisions profoundly impact global communities, Wood presented SHIFT in collaboration with the World Land Trust (WLT) to underscore the individual’s role in securing a sustainable future and to enable the permanent conservation of land and biodiversity directly through the artwork.

Wood explained that her WLT collaboration brought SHIFT to life, allowing the artwork to impart a universal message while offering a tangible intervention to the critique it presents. In doing so, SHIFT confronts the disconnect between concern and action, empowering the viewer to reassess their habits and claim their agency in shaping a sustainable future. In a time of overwhelming challenge, SHIFT champions the individual who, despite feeling insignificant and helpless, is central to achieving global sustainability.

Through SHIFT, we see the impact of our lifestyle choices on global health, while Wood’s “Luxuriate in Discomfort” (2018-2021) challenges us to consider that discomfort might be the path to achieving both personal well-being and environmental harmony. In “LUX”, Wood confronts our pursuit of comfort and luxury via a double entendre: by living a life of luxury in day-to-day torment, and by seeking discomfort as a means toward contentment. The project reflects her practice of engaging in excessively hot and cold environments over the past 7 years, a discipline that helped her to overcome the challenges of isolation and self-doubt throughout her practice.

Wood’s body of work reflects the evolution of an artist influenced by the world around her and serves as a profound commentary on our times. Each project is rooted in personal experience and the broader narrative of contemporary anxieties. Wood champions the individual, motivating a collective push towards action, at a time of escalating isolation. It’s just us and our planet –working together to inspire change is a shift we need to make.

Looking ahead, Wood aims to advance narratives of societal purpose and sustainability while simultaneously generating concrete, real-world impacts. Her partnership with World Land Trust ensures that her artwork will directly contribute to the preservation of protected wilderness areas globally.

This article appears in the Summer 2024 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.