Boyden's literary, longing skeletons at Seven Hills winery tasting room

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WALLA WALLA — Local artist Ian Boyden mixes skeletons, wine, moonlight and poetry in his new show, "Drinking with the Moon," which opens Friday.

The show opens with an official reception from 6–8 p.m. at Seven Hills Winery, 212 N. Third Ave.

Poems by ancient Chinese poet Li Po and images of playful skeletons drinking wine in moonlight landscapes come together to celebrate the pleasure of drinking wine and reading poetry.

"This show is somewhat a counterpoint to my previous set, ‘Echoes of Earth,’ that was inspired by the growing art culture related with wine here in Walla Walla. This one is more of a catapult back to the Earth, a look back in time," Boyden said.

Instead of spacious landscapes, this time the images of animated skeletons and the omnipresent moon fill the paintings.

"I was interested to use images of death and remind that we’re all going to end there, in the earth, and all that is going to be left from us will be just bones. But at the same time I was asking myself ‘How do I make a skeleton be an image of desire and longing?’ That’s how I purposefully gave each skeleton a visible red heart, exaggerated the shoulders so they look like wings, made the skeletons floating and tempting," Boyden said.

"I wanted to play with the paradox of skeletons that have no eyes, but they wear glasses and read poetry. They drink wine that will spill from their bone-bodies, they dance with lily flowers. I wanted to make them desirous. As well I had the idea to play with Li Po, considered the world’s greatest wine lover (oenophile)," Boyden said. "When drinking a great bottle of wine, why not stop and read a bit of ancient poetry?"

Boyden has gathered his own pigments that vary from meteorites, fossilized shark teeth and freshwater pearls to carbon from his own wood stove.

"In his hands these materials become means for gathering the marvelous, interpreting the voice of the other, and establishing residence. Out of these translations come works that are simultaneously geological and lyrical, mystical and industrial, jolting, dreamlike, and archetypal," states his biographical note.

Boyden said of the poems he has included in the paintings, "Mountain Drinking Song" best represents Li Po’s poetry:


To drown the ancient sorrows,
we drunk a hundred jugs of wine
there in beautiful moonlight. We couldn’t
go to bed with the moon so bright.
Then finally the wine overcame us
and we lay down on the empty mountain:
earth for a pillow
and a blanket made of heaven.

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