Tire Shop, Cherry Creek, Nevada

“Tire Shop, Cherry Creek, Nevada,” archival pigment print by Laura McPhee, one of the artists appearing on the upcoming panel this Tuesday.

    The Sun Valley Center for the Arts will host a free panel discussion, “Photographing the Great Basin,” with internationally celebrated photographers Emmet Gowin and Laura McPhee on Tuesday, July 9, at 6 p.m. at The Community Library in Ketchum.

    Gowin is professor emeritus of visual arts at Princeton University in New Jersey, while McPhee is a professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

    The photographs of both Gowin and McPhee are currently featured in The Center’s visual arts exhibition “Mirage: Energy, Water and Creativity in the Great Basin,” on view through Aug. 23.

    The images showcase the Great Basin, a vast landscape in the American West that includes parts of Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, California and the majority of Nevada. The area is defined by its rivers draining internally, rather than to the ocean. Now a largely arid site, the land was once an inland sea.

    The exhibition uses the idea of the basin’s closed watershed system as a metaphor for thinking about the land. The Great Basin is a place of mystery and obscurity, its grand scale allowing people the opportunity to do things they can’t do elsewhere, and the photographs featured in “Mirage” unravel those stories and mysteries of the Basin.

    The panel discussion will focus on how Gowin and McPhee use their photographs to tell complicated narratives about the unique environment and ecosystems of the Great Basin, and the intersection of governmental agencies, corporations and individuals on its landscapes.

    “I’m thrilled that our community will have the opportunity to hear from these two renowned photographers,” said Courtney Gilbert, curator of visual arts at The Center. “Despite their different approaches, they have worked at some of the same sites and consider many of the same ideas.

    “The photographs Emmet Gowin has lent to the exhibition were made aerially, offering startling views of the scarring and cratering of the Great Basin’s landscapes as a result of activities like nuclear testing, mining, munitions storage and even off-road travel.

    “Laura McPhee has made photographs at some of the same sites as Gowin, but she works on the ground. Her images are part of a larger project inspired in part by her great-grandmother’s history as an itinerant schoolteacher in mining and ranching towns in Nevada.”

The event will be moderated by Gilbert, and audience members will have the chance to pose their own questions to Gowin and McPhee. It’s a unique opportunity for the local community to partake in a conversation with renowned artists regarding their work, and what drew them to spend time in the Great Basin region.

    The Center has hosted similar panels in the past, and Gilbert looks forward to the continued success of such events.

    “A discussion of the similarities and differences in [the artists’] work should make for a fascinating evening,” she said.

    For more information about the July 9 free panel discussion and other upcoming events at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, visit sunvalleycenter.org or call The Center’s box office at 208-726-9491.

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