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If you've ever stood in a marsh in late autumn and watched a flock of geese rise in an undulating wave of beating wings as they take flight across a barren, windswept landscape, you can recapture the wonder of that moment when you step into "Windswept" -- the new art installation by sculptor Tracy Linder at the Holter Museum of Art.

The art piece is a visual haiku of that fleeting memory.

Along the left wall of the museum's High Gallery is "Wings" -- a series of 100 translucent blue, gray and purple wings rising in flight. Each unique in its position, angle and shape. Lighted from below, the shimmering wings send a series of soaring shadows toward the ceiling, which overlap, seeming to form V's of birds in flight.

On the facing wall is "Limbs" -- a series of stark, golden-colored, curved branches stretching into the room. Cast-off cottonwood and elm branches, they are each carefully encased in finely stitched, supple leather.

"(Wings) is about that beautiful moment of choreography when (birds) are taking off and that beautiful presence they bring to us," said Linder in a phone interview last week from her home outside of Molt.

It's actually inspired by a meteor shower Linder watched with her friends.

She soon became fascinated with the myths surrounding her favorite constellation, Pleiades,-- the story of seven sisters flying into the heavens as doves.

"In pre-Christian times, it was believed they could fly in and out of the Magic Mountain," she said. And according to myth, "the doves flying in and out of our lives could be the souls of people we once knew."

Linder's fascination with wings also comes from her experiences growing up on her family's eastern Montana ranch, watching the seasonal wave of birds alighting and then rising from the fields and taking flight.

"I liked the symbolism of all those things coming together," she said, "and considering the presence of birds in our lives."

She modeled the wings after those of a dove. All are intricately feather-textured and made from translucent resin.

"For me, translucence gives a feel of memory -- a remembered thing."

Although her usual palette of colors is amber, drawn from the eastern Montana rural landscape that inspires much of her work, she chose sky colors for "Wings."

"I thought blue hues were a far more conducive color for the piece," she said. "It resonates with the sky and flight."

Across the room from "Wings" is "Limbs" -- a work that explores vulnerability and a tree's strategies for survival.

Linder has come to know her subjects intimately, having carefully fitted and sewed the leather pieces encasing the 23 limbs with thousands of tiny stitches.

"It's a very meditative process for sure," she said. It takes her an hour to stitch 3 inches.

"Time is an aspect of my work. The limbs are long, worked-out meditative pieces -- how they spent time on trees, how they were shaped by time," she said.

"I often look at the survival strategies of my subject matter -- the tree sacrificing the limb to survive. How often do we think of that?

"When I gather the limbs and am sewing on leather, I'm learning about its life, how it was formed and shaped by wind."

Through her work, she hopes to reveal its "biography."

Thus, each limb has a whimsical name, such as Tina, Albert and Vanessa.

"It's a meditative look to what's happening in our environment -- a more humbling approach of how things become what they are, considering the work of a lifespan.

"Wings are about the fleeting amount of time. I like them facing each other."

If you go

An opening reception for Tracy Linder's installation "Windswept" is Friday, May 29, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Holter Museum of Art, 12 E. Lawrence.

Linder will give a gallery talk Saturday, May 30, at 10:30 a.m.

Both events are free and open to the public.

For more information 442-6400

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