At Bay: An Installation by Lori Goodman

This essay was prepared by HSU students: Ryan Cox, Stepanie Guel, Jill Moore, Jon McCallum, Adam Poore, Charissa Schulze and Brian Tyzzer.

Lori Goodman’s installation, At Bay, is based on her observations made during numerous hikes through the Eureka Wildlife Sanctuary, whose beauty and ecological complexity she believes is locally underappreciated. Her desire with this exhibition is to draw attention to the sanctuary while making a cohesive gallery installation.

Goodman’s approach is to extract and then amplify visual elements from the sanctuary, interpreting the site through a sculptural installation that employs many sizes, shapes, and colors of handmade papers.


Through the repetition and alteration of organic forms, artist Lori Goodman invites us to reflect upon and appreciate our world. Goodman looks intimately at life; absorbing the minute details through a process of dissecting and exaggerating her observations, she presents nature’s often overlooked beauty in the gallery space where it can be seen in a new light. Goodman hopes her work will elicit personal contemplation and scrutiny from her audience, stirring us towards environmental and self-awareness in a compelling yet unpretentious manner. In a world seemingly saturated by industrial destruction, Goodman is conscious of how easily we can become complacent and ignorant regarding nature. We may notice the spectacular aspects, the brightest flower or the oldest tree, yet we increasingly fail to appreciate the less fantastic: the reeds, the sands, the grasses, and the marshlands of the Earth. However, by emphasizing the relationships between humans and our effect on the environment and by contrasting organic forms with inorganic shapes and colors, Goodman awakens us to a realm that has always been there for us – the forgotten natural world.

Lori Goodman was born in Montana and grew up in Los Angeles, California. She started taking art classes in college and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Los Angeles State University in 1966. While still in college, Goodman moved with her husband to Philadelphia, and in 1973 they moved to Humboldt County, California to raise their family. Later, in 1990, she earned a Master of Arts degree in Sculpture from Humboldt State University. Goodman’s original love of weaving opened the doors to paper-making and the fiber arts in which she has been involved for over a quarter century. In that time she has owned and operated a fiber arts store, taught a variety of textile and fiber arts classes at various universities, and displayed her work professionally in New York, Oregon, Switzerland, Belize, West Africa, and throughout California.


Creating sculptures of various size, from just a few inches to well over fourteen feet in height, Goodman uses a variety of natural media such as bamboo, sticks, reeds and other organic materials. However, the main substance that feeds Goodman’s creativity is kozo. Coming from the bark of the Japanese mulberry tree, kozo has been harvested for thousands of years in Asia and can be made into extremely strong paper. Kozo is a completely renewable fiber resource and is usually grown on hills around rice fields. Goodman uses these fibers to create handmade paper at her studio in Eureka, California.

Using large cauldrons she cooks these fibers until they are soft, mashing the material further into a pulp with a wooden beater, and adding dye if desired. After the material has absorbed the dye it is rinsed well, combined with a formation aid which allows the fibers to float, and is poured into a wooden form where it dries and coalesces into a single sheet of paper.

Although Goodman enjoys the natural color of the paper, considering it beautiful in itself, she often incorporates fiber-reactive dyes to create a wide array of earthy tans, browns, greens, yellows, and oranges. These hues convey a subdued, organic effect; but her work also features more poignant colors, such as fiery reds or brilliant blues, which serve in her work as a form of punctuation.


The choice of color is emotive in Goodman’s work and, when applied to her hand-crafted sculptures of paper and bamboo, it draws attention to her environmental concerns. In previous installations, Goodman has featured what she describes as “pods.” These four-sided oblong shapes are assembled into floor installations, wall installations, and free-hanging sculptures. The technical process of creating these pods involves stretching her papers over armatures of bamboo. While each pod is about the size of a person’s fist or a small apple, their size and shape vary somewhat from one to the next as they are displayed in cluster-like patterns. Their delicate, complex forms are comparable to cells or seeds and are thus reminiscent of the propagation and cycles of life.


One of Goodman’s chief concerns is to remind us of nature’s power to seek and create life. An example of this can be seen in Accessibility, 2003, where Goodman was invited to Sumter, South Carolina to create a site-specific work for the Fifth Annual Installation Art Exhibit. Her part of the exhibition, From the Outside In, consisted of turning a neglected Main Street site into a thought-provoking display by covering the lot with “grass” made from bamboo and kozo paper. These sculptural blades of grass ranged from six inches to twelve feet in height, transforming the space into an amalgamation of nature’s power of reclamation and her sculptural interpretation of that process. The exaggerated forms artfully called attention to the abandoned space and persuaded the community to engage in a dialogue about such sites.


In 2004, Goodman’s collaboration with Barbara Dolan Wilkinson, Ghostdancing, also called attention to environmental issues. This work was displayed in the sculpture courtyard of the Morris Graves Museum in Eureka, California, utilizing bamboo and kozo to create oval-like columns of various sizes. Both natural and fabricated, these irregular stump-like forms emerged from rolling mounds of soil, twisting skywards like a miniature city sprawling animatedly across a hillside. Ghostdancing simultaneously evoked the sense of loss incurred by deforestation. In nature Redwood stumps retain their brown and red hues years after they have been cut, and although the trees are dead, the stumps retain so much of their beauty that this loss is easily unnoticed by the people who walk past it. In contrast, Goodman’s work incorporated the stark, natural white of her handmade paper to stylize the redwood stumps, emphasizing the destruction of trees and the finality of a tree stump.

Continuing her environmental theme for this exhibition, Goodman has created an indoor watershed environment by transforming HSU First Street Gallery, Eureka, California, into a simulated marshland. Her exhibition, At Bay, employs many sizes, shapes, and colors of handmade papers from yellow-green grasses over fourteen feet in height to squatty, blob-like objects only a few inches tall, and all sorts of formations in between. We are presented with no ordinary marshland. Goodman’s amplified grasses tower over the viewer, placing us in the perspective of a field mouse or a raccoon, forcing us to reexamine how we see and think about this part of our world. The blobs of various colors – purples, blues, dark greens, sometimes with streaks of orange or yellow – resemble the mangled seaweed clumps that can be found on the beach or perhaps a mysterious nest of debris wadded up with the muck of the earth. The use of color is pushed to the extreme with sticks covered in hot pink, reminding us that things are not always as they seem. Through abstracting the forms of wetland areas, Goodman opens us up to new insights and reminds us of the diminutive natural spaces that often go unnoticed.

The naturally inspired forms and materials used in Goodman’s pieces enhance the ecologically responsible motivations in her works, provoking us to change the way we perceive and affect our environment. She reminds us of the details we often overlook in our daily lives, yet makes no specific statements about what we need to do or what we are doing wrong. Instead, Goodman shows us the wabi-sabi, a Japanese concept of finding beauty in the imperfections of nature and art, accepting and appreciating their transience. She exposes us to forms inspired by nature, but by exaggerating them, Goodman creates a forum for us to re-interpret our world, conveying social, as well as political intent.