Photo courtesy of Tori Karpenko Karpenko’s replica of a 1930s fire lookout cabin is the centerpiece of his exhibit.

Photo courtesy of Tori Karpenko

Karpenko’s replica of a 1930s fire lookout cabin is the centerpiece of his exhibit.

By Ann McCreary

For Methow Valley artist Tori Karpenko, “the transformative power of mountain solitude” provided solace and healing after personal crisis, and he has chosen to share his experience through a new art exhibit.

Karpenko’s art installation, “The Lookout,” opened last Thursday (Nov. 5) at the Traver Gallery in Seattle, culminating a two-year project funded through a grant from Artist Trust.


Photo courtesy of Tori Karpenko
This painting, Body Gone, is part of the exhibit at the Traver Gallery in Seattle.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a replica of a 1930s-era fire lookout cabin, 14-feet-by-14 feet, built by Karpenko. He has surrounded it with 16 acrylic paintings of mountain wilderness that “serve as reflection of places in the North Cascades that most prominently brought about solace.”

In the wake of his divorce and his young son moving four hours away, Karpenko said he sought solace in the North Cascades. “The vast silence of raw wilderness gave me a place to bring calm to a troubled mind,” he said in an artist statement.

During his time in the mountains he turned to the stories and poetry of Gary Snyder, Phillip Whalen and Jack Kerouac, who each spent summers as fire lookouts in the 1950s and experienced their own personal transformations.

“Their stories of profound personal and creative development during their deep solitude in the mountains inspired additional layers to the Lookout Project,” Karpenko said.

“The simple lookout cabin, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most iconic hermitages, became a crystallized form that could encapsulate the sanctuary that I too found in the high peaks. And then I decided to build one,” he said.

“It is not an entirely rational project, but it has given me a profound outlet to work through the most difficult challenge of my life. I’m sharing it with the world because I believe in healing, and the mountains are where I found home again,” Karpenko said.

Karpenko is director of operations and partnerships at TwispWorks. He was awarded a prestigious GAP grant (Grants for Artist’s Projects) from the Artist Trust for $1,500 in support of the Lookout Project.

The Lookout continues through Dec. 23. Traver Gallery is located on Union Street, just across from the Seattle Art Museum.