Just down Main Street, a small pine forest is suspended several feet above the ground: over 50 trees hang from the ceiling of Coleman Burke Gallery in Fort Andross as part of Jacob Galle's recent installation.

Galle, a 2005 MFA graduate from Vermont College of Fine Arts, has participated in shows as close as Portland's SPACE Gallery and as far as Poland, Slovenia, Romania and Iceland. According to Galle, his work focuses on "disputing the romanticized view of farming and rural life as a 'simple' life by performing labor within the context of fine art."

Several months ago, when Coleman Burke Gallery founders Lecturer of Art John Bisbee and Professor of Art Mark Wethli asked Galle to design a site-specific installation for their Brunswick gallery, Galle jumped at the opportunity to create this unique piece of work

Upon first entering the gallery, Galle said he immediately saw the possibility of "[using] the space as if it were one of the materials...and of forming a connection between the trees in the courtyard and the trees inside."

Though Galle's work typically explores themes of landscape and manual labor through the medium of video performance art, he said that for this project he allowed himself to expand on his traditional repertoire and "challenge [himself] as to what exactly he wanted to do" with the space.

When Bisbee and Wethli gave Galle free reign over the cavernous space, Galle said he began to think about the difference in scale of nature on the West Coast and in New England, about distance, and about what it is like to walk through a forest. According to Galle, the experience of growing up on a farm in nearby Bowdoinham constantly informs the type of work that Galle produces today, regardless of the medium in which he is working. He noted that his work is united by the idea that "landscape has a history of manual labor that is present no matter what type of landscape it is."

Whileconsidering his upcoming exhibit, Galle was at the time immersed in a project of clearing a pasture field at his Bowdoinham farm, a process that involved cutting down many pine trees. With trees on hand as potential materials and the experience of walking through the forest driving his sculptural work, Galle envisioned an exhibit that would incorporate the idea of a forest, while being different from the actual experience of walking through the woods. Galle noted the scale of the gallery, saying the "place is so big...I wanted to trick the viewer into not knowing how big, and the trees create the sense of not knowing" its exact size.

The trees are all cut uniformly to hang just over four feet off the ground, but their arrangement in the space seems random, growing more dense toward the back of the room. Pine cones are scattered in the branches, needles quiver when a visitor walks by, and the smell of evergreen fills the space; walking among the pines is at once disconcerting and calming. Raising the trees off of the ground plays with visitors' expectations of how they might engage with nature, suggesting the mutability of natural landscape.

Kate Knowles '10 said she sees a duality in the installation.

"It is at once both experiencing ascension, as if you are part of it, and causing insecurity because you feel a little trapped too," she said.

After deciding on the trees as the focal point of the exhibition, Galle determined that he would incorporate an audio element to his work, rendering the exhibit a realm of constant sensory discovery.

The otherworldly experience of walking through a raised forest is intensified by the sensory juxtaposition of a video loop and white noise soundtrack. Emanating from speakers in the back of the room is a quiet crescendo of soft white noise, increasingly noticeable as one moves toward the back of the gallery space. Standing in the doorway, it is hard to discern whether the noise is part of the exhibit or just the wind rattling outside the building; however upon realizing that the audio is, intentional, it serves to pull the viewer farther into his or her exploration of the forest.

The idea of nature as an unsettled and changing entity is furthered by the floor-to-ceiling video projection of a forest in various states of destruction. The grainy film focuses on a clear-cut forest, except for the brief interruption of wind moving through the few remaining trees, and a bird darting across the screen. The slow moving loop serves as a testament both to the cyclical nature of forests and the implications of human involvement in them.

Galle said that each viewer will have a unique response, entirely separate from how he himself thinks about the installation, a type of distance and self-reflection that is intrinsic to Galle's work. Galle said, "People can bring to it what they want, take away from it what they want...the more time people spend with it, the more they will understand it on their level. If people want to look it as an environmental political statement about land use and land clearing they can. Or they can see it as a meditative place or state...and think about the labor and work it takes to cut down trees."

Jacob Galle's installation will be exhibited in the Coleman Burke Gallery in Fort Andross through July 3.