For local artist De Lane Bredvik, art is more than something beautiful. It's a way to make a stand for his passions.

"I feel like in this day and age we can't waste our life," he said. "I feel like I need to do something meaningful."

And so he will. The 46-year-old is known for his installation art, which is 3-D art meant to engage an indoor space. His work has addressed topics such as domestic violence and the pressure to conform to society's status quo.

This time, his focus is on the reported sudden aspen decline. His installation, "Waldsterben: Sudden Aspen Decline," (Waldsterben is German for "forest death") is on display at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Gallery of Contemporary Arts 121 at the Plaza of the Rockies until October.

Sudden aspen decline refers to the death of a large amount of aspen trees in a short amount of time. Aspen trees share a web of interconnected roots, and these "families" of trees can be tens of thousands of years old.

"In the past 10 years, Colorado has seen over 20 percent of its aspen forests die," Bredvik said. "So an organism that's been around for over 10,000 years, for 20 percent to die in a decade - that should raise some eyebrows."

Stanford researcher William Anderegg spoke on this phenomenon at the show's opening on Tuesday. Most of his work has focused on sudden aspen decline.

"Science is a hard narrative to package and to communicate to people," Anderegg said. "I'm really excited about De Lane's installation. I think art has a lot of potential to engage people and communicate to people the severity of what's happening to our forests."

Daisy McConnell, director of Galleries of Contemporary Arts, says many people will "shut down" when presented with scientific facts. The installation, she said, has an emotional impact.

The installation is part of the AWOL (Art WithOut Limits) project, and it will be held in the Plaza of the Rockies atrium, steps away from the GOCA 121, which is located in the same building.

The work involves 60 translucent panels with aspen trees painted on them, Bredvik said. The ground is also covered in mulch. Text on the walls will teach visitors about sudden aspen decline.

"The group structure is pulling so hard to find moisture, it pulls in pockets of air and the air bubble causes an embolism, so you get a blockage in the vascular part of the root system," Bredvik says. "The aspen forests are dying of massive heart attacks."

Anderegg says scientists started noting the die-off in 2004 or 2005 in response to the 2000-2003 droughts. The current drought is expected to cause a similar phenomenon in coming years.

"I think here in Colorado many of us have such an emotional connection to our landscape and we've been going through traumas with our forests," McConnell said. "I think there's a raised awareness with what's going on in the West with drought and increasing temperature and I hope it will lead to greater advocacy for how we can stop this. Kind of a bigger vision for tackling climate change."


"Waldsterben: sudden aspen decline"

When: Through October

Where: GOCA 121, Plaza of the Rockies, 121 S. Tejon St.

Tickets: Free; 255-3504,