Aaron Treher – Shepherdstown, West Virginia

Giant Sequoia, red cedar wood chips and adhesive, 20 in. x 15 in. x 15 in., 2013.

Giant Sequoia, red cedar wood chips and adhesive, 20 in. x 15 in. x 15 in., 2013.

Briefly describe the work you do.

As a contemporary artist, I create artwork as a means of expression and introspection. A way to understand hidden truths and communicate my perspective of the world. The act of making artwork, the labor and manipulation of the materials, moves my work forward.

My process often involves an investigation of materials, objects, and forms. I dissect, recontextualize, and juxtapose these elements to dramatically change whatever object I began with. This stems from my urge to broaden my own perception of an object and ultimately learn more about the world. New themes, patterns, and metaphors evolve through this process as well. I then use these visual devices like puzzle pieces, building and creating new work, piecing together a more complete picture of how I see reality.

The result of this exploration often expresses, sometime ironically, two dominant themes: the anthropogenic landscape and the natural world. My work involves examining reclaimed or recycled objects, objects which are part of the anthropogenic landscape but sometimes derived from the natural world. 

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I am from Pennsylvania. I grew up in the Cumberland Valley which lies within the Appalachian Mountains. Much of my inspiration, even as a young artist, comes from this region and its mountains. The Appalachian Mountains have experienced great change since industrialization. More recently, the Appalachians have seen rapid growth of gas wells, commercial warehouses, and commercial farms. This growth has left parts of the landscape and environment poisoned, bare, and in some cases completely uninhabitable. Directly and indirectly, I have watched many changes locally and globally. My work interprets these anthropogenic landscapes and changes to the natural landscape.

Unnatural Ice, glass mason block, light bulbs, and electrical components, dimensions vary, 2011

Unnatural Ice, glass mason block, light bulbs, and electrical components, dimensions vary, 2011

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

Currently my studio also functions as a classroom. I teach high school students various sculpture techniques by morning and work on my own sculptures in the afternoon and evening. The space is part of an Artist-in-Residence program offered at a public school. In some ways my studio time has become a kind of laboratory study. It can look and feel scientific in the sense that people observe and study what I do. 

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

I see myself as an advocate for the environment. More often I take a hard stance on what I feel needs to be highlighted with conservation of our natural resources and environment. When I first began making art, I saw myself making drawings on a street, being lifted away by some town in Europe or the Appalachian Mountains. Which I did try to some degree as a young artist: practicing this romantic sense of what it means to be an artist. But now that magic has kind of changed and turned into this urge to understand and analyze aspects of global atrocities especially related to the environment. 

he Hive, garden hose and adhesive, 16 in. x 16 in. x 7 in., 2013

he Hive, garden hose and adhesive, 16 in. x 16 in. x 7 in., 2013

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can? 

Anytime of the day. I was once told by my former professor that being in the studio is a chance and opportunity to capture something. Being in your studio gives you a chance to capture an idea as it hits you and see it to fruition. For that reason, I always carry a sketchbook and draw ideas out as soon as I think of them. I might even scribble down thoughts on post-it notes on the way to work. 

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

My work has grown in size and I use a greater diversity of mediums. This shift happened because of my ability to make large scale works at a rather large arts center I co-founded in Pennsylvania. I have also changed why I make work. Many of my installations that investigate the anthropogenic landscape, which thematically dominate my portfolio today, have come about because of my ability to travel and witness what is happening around the world. Most notably is Giant Sequoia, which was inspired by seeing the Giant Sequoias in person. 

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

Yes, my parents and siblings are the largest and most influential. As a child, they encouraged me to make art, sculpt and draw, every chance I had. Currently, I look to artist such as Tara Donovan, Sara Sze, Ai Wei Wei, and Tony Cragg as inspiration and a source of

motivation. My former professor, Dr. Jim Nestor, has been a world of influence on me as an artist. Without his insight and understanding of what I was making and how to speak about it, I would not be the same artist and person I am today. A good friend and colleague, Ernest M. Garcia, pushed me to keep making work and submit pieces to exhibitions and he is still a source of inspiration and motivation. 

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

I would probably be a geologist. I have a very sincere appreciation for the processes that go into the creation of a mountain and why they look the way they do presently.


Aaron Treher Head ShotAaron Treher is a sculptor and installation artist based out of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Treher began his fine art studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. While there he participated in a bilateral student exchange with the Academy of Fine Arts, Zagreb. After graduating with honors, Treher returned home to Shippensburg where he began working with various art council groups and non-profit galleries. After several years of coordinating with community members he then co-founded a contemporary arts center. Treher’s objective in founding the center was to develop and promote art and culture in rural Pennsylvania. Currently, Treher is participating in a year long Artist-in-Residence program at Tuscarora School District in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania where he is focusing on installation art, sculpture and development of public art projects. 

Aaron Treher with his exhibit at The Thought Lot(Public Opinion/Vicky Taylor)

Aaron Treher with his exhibit at The Thought Lot(Public Opinion/Vicky Taylor)


All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 

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