555 Hamilton St
Arbora Versa was an exhibition about nature, language and perception. The arbres referred to in the title are not simply calendar conifers or deciduous shade providers. No, the tree of Arbora Versa takes a pseudo-Latin variant of the word for tree to represent nature in its entirety. Versa, on the other hand, may be taken in the context of this exhibition to refer to any of the following: the other side of the tree or the unknown; the left hand page of the tree or the page on which, in traditional publishing, there is never a picture; the language of the tree or the tree as a model for the idea of a network; being against the tree or anti-nature; or the idea of being well-versed or familiar with the tree. Also, by implying an inversion of the image of the tree, it also refers to the brachial trees of set theory and linguistic analysis. Another way of saying this would be to refer to the tree of the title as a tree that is not only quite versatile in terms of its metaphoric abilities, but as one that is also capable of a certain reversibility, allowing it to oscillate between competing meanings without having to overwork itself. It is an extremely generalized and universal tree, as it represents ideas about our relation to the natural world as much as it does any particular organic object.
In the exhibition each of the five artists — Sylvie Bouchard, Lorraine Gilbert, Rodney Graham, Jerry Pethick, and Rhoda Rosenfeld — was represented by one work. The five works were as stylistically different from each other as they were similar in their relation to the subject of nature. They were chosen as examples of the idea of the work of art as an enclosure for nature and each was taken as an instance of nature contained, just as an organism could be thought of in such terms.
-Bill Jeffries, excerpted from “Introduction,” in Arbora Versa, 1991