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Storied Earth, an exhibit featuring artwork by Tiana Birrell at Alice Gallery

Tiana Birrell, second-year Environmental Humanities student, and current Digital Matters Fellow at the Marriott Library is one of five artists who created Storied Earth, an exhibition that celebrates nature’s mystifying language by examining human relationships with the earth at Alice Gallery in Salt Lake City.

From Tiana’s personal statement:

I am currently interested in looking deeper into the 1964 Wilderness Act and how that designation greatly impacts how I interact with my local landscape here in Utah, specifically the Wasatch Range.


The invisible boundary that the Wilderness Act creates, separating land untrammeled by man with land that is meant to live on-and now mine and develop on-, is rendered visible when one takes a birds-eye view into the mountains. Graffiti, buildings, telephone lines, and trash cans push up against that line and often illegally cross over into the protected landscape. How we do draw the line? How do we keep a balance between protecting land and living on it? Can we learn to live with the land? This series seeks to draw those lines, literally and metaphorically. I trace the shapes that I see in my personal interactions with the Wasatch, some found within the Wilderness boundary, some outside of it, and others straddling the border. The language of the Wilderness act literally shapes the landscapes and I am left to wonder how do we draw the line.

Storied Earth

Storied Earth Press Release from Utah Division of Arts and Museums:


Five artists celebrate nature’s mystifying language by examining human relationships with the earth in a new exhibition opening at the Alice Gallery. Storied Earth features artwork by Hannah Wertz Mortensen, Mary Baum, Tiana Birrell, Jena Schmidt, and Ron Linn.


The artists met seven years ago while working in the BFA Studios at Brigham Young University. They found themselves continually looking out of the large north windows of the studios at Mount Timpanogos-white and inscrutable on the horizon. As they each developed their individual research, a shared sense of connection to the land began to creep into the work, the Utah landscape worming its way in between line and form.


Years on, and the artists are still haunted by and drawn to the land in ways that they struggle to express in words. Language shapes landscapes, both internal and external, political and private, magical and mundane, metaphoric and literal. To name something is to know it intimately, but how are we to name that which we don’t have the vocabulary for, or for which our words are inadequate? How might we come to read messages written in the stones and the water like we would from a book? And what of the particular language of ownership, that marks the edge of what we call wild? Caught in the intersection of language and landscape, words- whatever form they might take-attempt to record, reconstruct, and organize the human/earth relationship on both a personal and public scale.


The work in this show represents a communal lexicon of images, objects, and texts which attempt to re-wild the word-shed, to locate the boundary between language and the earth, or perhaps to find a new language to even speak about it.

Last Updated: 1/15/19