Name: Julia Oldham
Occupation: "I work full time as an artist."
Hometown: "I grew up in a tiny little town in what used to be very rural western Maryland. It's called Ijamsville — the "j" is silent. My little sister and I were raised by our physicist dad, our rock-hounding and gardening mother, and our four dogs in a house that my parents built on farm land. During my childhood we planted a forest together on our property, and now my parents live in a beautiful forest full of deer, foxes, opossums, toads, and lots of other wildlife. I love going home to visit them and miss them very much since we live so far apart now."
Exhibit: "View of the Red Forest"
Location: Oregon State University's Woodshop Projects, Fairbanks Basement 004, 220 SW 26th St.
Media: "I work primarily in video and animation, though I also make graphic novels and do a lot of drawing in general."
About the exhibit: "'View of the Red Forest' is an installation about my visit to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine this past spring. I spent five days in the zone documenting the ruins of what was once a bustling complex, and focusing particularly on the way that plants and wildlife are rewilding the remnants of human habitation. The exhibition includes five large scale photographs of windows in dilapidated buildings that are looking out onto a green wilderness, and a 25-minute video portrait of different areas of Chernobyl. The video is scored by Free Static (Courtney Stubbert and Chris Ruiz), a Eugene-based improvisational sound duo blending modular synth and musique concrète.
"The title 'View of the Red Forest' refers to a specific area in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone that I found fascinating. Here is a little bit of history about the Red Forest:
"In April 1986, an explosion in Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Power Plant in the Soviet Union precipitated the worst nuclear disaster in history. The explosion created an enormous dust cloud carrying deadly radioactive isotopes which spread across Europe, affecting much of eastern Europe and Scandinavia. The most severe contamination, however, settled in what is now known as the Exclusion Zone, a 1,000 square-mile area in Ukraine surrounding the power plant.
"The Red Forest is a 4 square-mile wooded area that received some of the highest levels of radioactive contamination resulting from the explosion. After absorbing huge doses of radiation, all of the trees died and turned a rusty red color, which is where the name of the area derives. In the cleanup effort, the forest was bulldozed and buried underground, and a new forest was planted to stabilize radioactive isotopes. The Red Forest is now green and beautiful, and both flora and fauna are flourishing in the absence of humans. It remains one of the most radioactive areas in the world."
Inspiration: "I have always been interested in the uneasy relationship that we humans have with nature. In my recent work I've been speculating about post-apocalyptic futures."
Impact on viewers: "Ideally, I would love for my work to open up rabbit holes of interest for my viewers, whether it's about the history of the space race, black holes, man-made disasters, or insect behaviors. I want to tell a story that compels those who see my work to find out more. But it's not just about information; I also want my viewers to feel something, to laugh or to feel disturbed or to feel sorrow as a way of truly entering into the work I make."
What people should know: "I volunteer at the Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene and am passionate about dog rescue. While in Chernobyl, I made a film about the stray dogs that live there called 'Fallout Dogs.' It's currently on exhibit at the Portland 'Pataphysical Society through Feb. 17."