Captivating Explorations of Nature, Beauty, and Loss by Sculptor LB Buchan

This autumn, the PDX Art Program is delighted and honored to present a mesmerizing new exhibition titled Nekton. Produced by the exceptionally talented Vancouver, Washington-based sculptor LB Buchan, the exhibition for Portland International Airport couldn’t have a more fitting title than Nekton—defined as aquatic animals that are able to swim and move independently of water currents. This skillful and thoughtfully curated collection of four hand-carved and crafted wooden sculptures will be on view post-security within the Concourse DE Lobby Display Case for PDX’s Rotating Art Program for a full year, through October 2022.

Sculptor LB Buchan’s contemplative practice addresses the discomfort we often feel with taboo subjects such as death and decay, and our impulse to avoid them, physically and emotionally. Buchan’s work draws from a variety of sources in the natural world, including carcasses, skeletal structures, biological specimens, taxidermy, fungi, plant life, as well as general animal and human anatomy.

I’m particularly interested in creatures onto which we have placed a stigma — bats, giant squid, sharks, and spiders, to name a few. We’ve created a culture of fear and have developed rich mythologies around these animals. I aim to confront people with subjects they might typically shy away from by transforming ideas traditionally interpreted as grotesque, ominous, and stigmatic into new forms with beauty. I am not trying to eradicate the initial gut reaction or discomfort but to help the viewer recognize and exist with it.

The purpose of my Animalia work is to draw attention to the rapid loss of biodiversity our planet faces today. Scientists report 150 – 200 species of plants, insects, birds, and mammals disappearing daily, which is 1,000 times greater than the natural extinction rate. Cetus acts as a representation of both past and present species, a statement of what remains, and a warning of irreplaceable loss. —LB Buchan

LB Buchan, Cetus (detail), 2014, Roasted Poplar, 33 x 120 x 31 inches

Buchan’s sculpture titled Cetus is an exploration in uniting various anatomical structures from different animals, most notably a bowhead whale, flamingo, woolly mammoth, and dinosaur. The skeletal design and chosen method of the display are meant to reference a natural history museum specimen.

LB Buchan, Cetus, 2014, Roasted Poplar, 33 x 120 x 31 inches
LB Buchan, Cetus, 2014, Roasted Poplar, 33 x 120 x 31 inches
LB Buchan, Exuviae 3.1, 2016 Douglas Fir Ply 48 x 31 x 20 inches

In biology, exuviae are the remains of the exoskeleton and related structures left after the molting process. Inspired by crustaceans, the Exuviae sculpture series uses solid wood veneer and plywood. While the exterior shells mimic a crustacean’s segmented exoskeleton, I created the internal skeletal structure to imitate spongy cancellous bone, creating a captivating, contradictory form.

LB Buchan, Exuviae 1.4, 2016 Maple and Poplar 43 x 42 x 16 inches and Exuviae 2.1, 2016 Cherry and Douglas Fir ply 38 x 30 x 16 inches

I grew up outside Bozeman, MT, where the farms, ranches, wildlife, and hunting culture sparked a deep interest in animals, food sources, and anatomy. The topic of my work developed out of the grief I experienced after losing my brother. I was always incredibly frustrated at the silence that formed when the topic of my brother came up, and how our society stigmatizes trauma and grief. Early on I noticed how avoidant people are in the face of difficult topics, and how closely related it is with people’s reactions to death and trauma they come into contact with elsewhere — including experiences in the natural world. My brother Mark was profoundly deaf, and we grew up speaking in American Sign Language. After he died, my world, which had been so vibrant with movement and visual language, became very still. It is no accident that I have pursued a path creating a visual language with my hands. —LB Buchan

Instagram: @laurabuchansculpture

For more information about this exhibition or artwork inquiries please contact:


Photo of LB Buchan in their studio by Richard Darbonne