July/August 2019: “Hush” Artists Draws Inspiration from Nature


Buck Christensen, opens a new window | Betni Kalk
, opens a new window
On display July 5 - September 2
Michael Phipps Gallery, W. Dale Clark Main Library, opens a new window

Documenting nature either through the lens of a camera or collected impressions, the featured artists Buck Christensen and Betni Kalk share fascination with organic cycles and forms. Photographer Christensen seeks stark landscapes that blur into abstractions, like those in fog or snow, with his recent work focused on local areas destroyed by flood and fire. Kalk, a multi-disciplinary artist, uses discoveries in various landscapes as inspiration for her work and often begins with representations of growth and decay. Both artists love how nature leads them to be more curious and brings their work into new forms as they observe and explore further.

Artists' statements

Buck Christensen

These are photographs I took during and after the wildfire of April 22, 2018, that reduced most of the Council Bluffs riverfront between the Veterans Memorial Bridge (South Omaha Bridge) and the Western Historic Trails Center to smoldering stumps and vast fields of white ash, fueled by strong wind, dead vegetation, and fallen timber that had been killed years ago by flooding of the Missouri River. What began as a foolhardy exercise in curiosity became a study of smoke, light, lines, and destruction. 

I’ve always been interested in and sought out fog, frost, deep snow, and other natural elements that render a scene more or less into simplified abstract forms. The fire and smoke had done just that to the area I was photographing along the riverfront, but in a much starker and inhospitable context than I’d ever experienced before. 

Betni Kalk

Wandering along meandering riverbanks, high deserts, rugged coastlines, hillsides and rainforests - I collect my visual sources to result in artwork that is anchored in natural forms, either explicitly in realistic landscapes or subtly in abstraction and pattern. Subtle similarities of growth and decay from found objects or ephemera become starting points for my work. Imagery can shift from delicate and intricate to bold and invasive. Form and surface textures on found objects from nature are examined and alternately interpreted in both descriptive rendering and extreme simplification. Layers of transparency in drawing and painting are often used to allow for multiple views of observation to merge into one artwork. New work includes combining and digitizing sketches and found objects to make designs for laser cutting into wood.