The Art of Contemplation

By Courtney Lauck
Editorial assistant, poet and author

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts’ BIG IDEA project began over 15 years ago, with a desire to expand thought and encourage conversation around one “big idea,” utilizing multiple disciplines and culminating in an imaginatively produced vision. In March, The Center unveiled Contemplative Practice, and curator Courtney Gilbert explains the inspiration behind it: “The project grew out of a conversation we had at a staff meeting about the connection between art and healing, which led us to look at the relationship between contemplation and the arts. How does art inspire a contemplative experience?”

Through June 23, The Center highlights Pegan Brooke, Serra Victoria Brothwell Fels, Dana Lynn Louis, and Meg Hitchcock—four artists who each use meditation as part of their artistic process and as subject matter in their work. Gilbert says, "I like the way they work in a variety of media to address the idea of different types of contemplative practices."

Pegan Brooke has been living and painting in Ketchum for five and a half years. Though her paintings are abstract, one can certainly feel the influence of the Valley's seasons emanating through the canvas. For Brooke, the art found in nature is Sun Valley's main draw: "There are moments when the light shimmers on the snow, reflects on he rivers or flickers through the aspen leaves, which have become a part of my painterly interests." Though Brooke is prominently known for her paintings, a medium she has worked in for 45 years, she also creates video poems and installations, which can be found alongside her paintings at The Center. Her video poems began with her contemplation of the Aven River years back in Pont Aven,  France, a place especially important to her.

Brooke describes herself as "internal and philosophical." and credits years of reading literature by the sea as the grounds for her art. These inspirational experiences are especially striking in her video poem installation, "Acceptance/Resistance" (2016), in which the light on moving water is projected onto the viewer's hands, an idea that Brooke came up with 12 years ago and Gilbert helped to make a reality. "The current body of work studies light falling on water—the way that phenomenon can engage us in a simple, deep, and sustaining way. One overarching idea in all my work, paintings, and video poems is to create a circumstance and space for the viewer to have her/his own experience, I just set it up."