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Museum Minute: Artist Kristin Leachman and her "Fifty Forests" project

A new exhibition at the museum focuses on paintings that seem abstract before you realize the paintings are very detailed close-up views of longleaf pine bark. Artist Kristin Leachman, who lives in California, traveled across the country to view deforested and reforested longleaf sites in southwest Georgia as part of her “Fifty Forests” project. Her resulting images look at the complex history of longleaf and human attempts to revive its population.

Longleaf forests once covered 90 million acres in the southeastern United States but declined to a mere 3 million acres with industrialization and the rise of the railroad. It likely would have disappeared entirely if not for the booming popularity of quail hunting in the 19th century and the need to preserve quail habitats.

Leachman uses reclaimed earth pigments in her work, produced from minerals like iron oxide pulled from US riverways historically polluted by mining. Curator Jeffrey Richmond-Moll says that her paintings both show and materially support environmental conservation in this way.

Much of the old-growth longleaf pine population is currently on private land across south Georgia, limiting people’s access to these majestic and hidden spaces. Leachman’s paintings provide an immersive experience that plays with scale and form, generating a sense of intimacy with this often-hidden ecosystem and its species.

“Kristin Leachman: Longleaf Lines” is on display through February 5, 2023. A free coloring book available in the galleries, designed for the exhibition by illustrator Katie Mulligan, allows visitors to explore and engage with the rich biodiversity of longleaf habitats.

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