Local artist redefines landscapes with graphite

Hannah Bartman

“I’ve always known I was an artist, whether I wanted to be or not,” said Augusta Sparks Farnum, a local artist who is currently showing her work at Brasserie Four on Main Street.

Farnum’s new set of works entitled “Beside the Garden” consists of two groups of eight-foot murals and seven other smaller pieces. She uses graphite to produce energetic, jagged lines which produce a “raw,” (as she describes her style) physical depiction of natural landscapes. The bending of a tree and the chaotic thicket of branches are captured by a two-dimensional space, but her pieces could not be categorized as realism. This choice allows for the audience to draw their own meanings from the piece, adding another dimension of relatability to her artwork.

“I believe in [my work] being a trigger. I believe in it being a destination, that the viewer, the person that experiences it inputs their work, inputs their color, their experience, that what they have to offer to the art is just as important,” she said.

An idea that Farnum approaches in her work is the need to bring the outside in.

As she puts in her artist statement, “I construct art to redefine spaces … I create places that I want to be.”

The sheer sizes of her two murals, which she believes would ideally span the wall of a normal home, really does create a space for the viewer. It’s a space of wildness that can only be achieved in nature. By capturing that in her unique style and choice of line, Farnum consciously does not depict the sublime landscape to impress the viewer with nature’s perfection, but she instead depicts the energy of a landscape that overlaps, that clashes and interacts together.

“Whenever I enter a space I’m really interested in how everything relates, to a degree that it’s just the way it is,” said Farnum. “When I’m in a forest, I’m looking at how things are relating to each other and almost in a social context; how trees are moving towards or way; [and how] they make postures in a way that one might make a posture in modern dance.”

This body of work is Farnum’s third solo show. She has previously showed her work at Amo Art gallery in Waitsburg and at Telander Gallery here in Walla Walla on Colville Street.

Farnum moved to Walla Walla with her husband right before the birth of her children at which point her career solely as an artist took a brief aside. She nonetheless held jobs as an interior designer, a landscape designer and a florist. She has worked in social work, on farms, in nurseries and in galleries. A common thread that runs through all of her outside work, though, is that she has always worked to assist others with their needs. In this body of artwork, Farnum has produced something that is entirely her own; from the medium to materials to the subject matter, Farnum attempted to achieve a certain self-sufficiency that allowed for these pieces to build completely from her own creation.

“I needed to find steps that I could take that I could own, that didn’t make me feel like a marionette,” she said. “I needed to find what steps that I could take that were truthful and that were mine.”