In Our NatureSeptember 10 - November 19, 2017
Curated by Meridith McNeal
334 Grand Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Open to the public Sundays 12-6 and by appointment
- Jane Ingram Allen
- Claudia Alvarez
- Edward Burtynsky
- Juanli Carrión
- Una Chaudhuri
- Richard Estrin
- Richard Estrin
- Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez
- Valerie Hegarty
- Robin Holder
- Brece Honeycutt
- Oliver Kelhammer
- Jan Mun
- Portia Munson
- Florence Neal
- Beverly Ress
- Marina Zurkow
In my little backyard in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, amongst the rose bushes, bamboo, herbs, ivy, holly, mosses, ferns, and honeysuckle, I have seen squirrels, possums, raccoons, mice, cats, blue jays, robins, cardinals, doves, pigeons, oriels, humming birds, butterflies, moths, spiders, dragon flies, slugs, snails, a rather large number of mosquitos… and those are only the species I can identify without a reference book!
If I am in the mood to expand my horizons, within blocks I can meander the verdant, tree-lined paths of Fort Greene Park, just one of the NYC parks that include nearly 30,000 acres of land composed of forest, woodland, freshwater wetland, and salt marsh ecosystems. As island dwellers, we New Yorkers are fortunate to have 76,066 acres of open water. For me, a short ride on the F train to Coney or a walk down to Valentino Park in Red Hook provides soul-soothing salty air as I watch waves lapping the Brooklyn shore.
It would not be out of the ordinary to cross paths with Florence Neal while walking along the pier in Red Hook. Florence’s water-based woodcuts (mokuhanga) depicting water are inspired by her daily morning walks both local and far-flung. Rush Teaching Artist Richard Estrin’s watercolors depicting seemingly small infractions upon the environment such as a littered path aim to focus our attention and beg us to consider our actions.
Another devoted walker, Brece Honeycutt, uses the term bewildered to describe the wonder of getting amazingly lost in the wilderness. Brece’s delicate stitched white-on-white pieces are portraits of Nature in her wintery incarnation. Seasons also inspire Beverly Ress who considers her meticulous drawings of no-longer-living plants and animals as a contemporary form of memento mori, honoring the passage of life and the process of letting go.
Claudia Alvarez’s ceramics and paintings are entrenched with the story of her immigration from Mexico. Referencing the abundant plants and flowers of her mother’s prodigious garden, Claudia examines her own relationship to identity, memory and home. Juanli Carrión counts gardening and social practice among his artmaking techniques. Continuing his community gardens that celebrate cultural heritage, Juanli worked with Rush Summer Session to create a growing portrait of Rush students.
Humans are not the only beings that emigrate. While searching for artists to include in this exhibition, I visited the Kentler Flat Files, a wonderful resource open to the public. When I first looked at Robin Holder’s prints at Kentler, I was particularly drawn to her depiction of movement. I can practically hear the flapping of bird wings in Mountain. Several years ago, my nephew and I watched a documentary about the deeply alarming worldwide bee crisis. It was imperative for me to include Jan Mun and her bee advocacy work in this exhibition. Jan has created an installation for this exhibition which includes an inactive beehive, paintings made with beeswax, and even seasonal honey she has harvested (which we encourage you to sample!).
In an age when so-called leaders unfathomably deny the unconscionable destruction of the earth and its bounty, Edward Burtynsky’s photographs of human devastated landscapes captured from the air is profoundly important work. Burtynsky says it well: “[We] come from nature.…There is an importance to [having] a certain reverence for what nature is because we are connected to it… If we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves.” Valerie Hegarty, informed by the current turbulent state of our country while also excavating from America’s past, presents recent ceramic work exploring the erosion of our values right along with our natural resources. The lush floral paintings of Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez take a bit of detective work to really catch the nuanced concept. By magnifying images of Colonial still lifes, she lures us into the lush and lovely decorative elements. But look again, and you will notice in the background that a flood drifts by, exposing neglect and indulgence.
So what are we going to do about this? Jane Ingram Allen has rid the streets of paper detritus, which she has then embedded in her hand-made paper maps. In the photographs of her monochromatic installations Portia Munson takes on plastic. Munson explains: “We as a culture are defined by the objects we mass produce, consume, and throw away. I collect these objects and assemble them into congested installations, in essence using as my resource the refuse of consumer culture that usually ends up in landfills.” I am very excited to include in this exhibition a manifestation of Dear Climate, a piece by Una Chaudhuri, Oliver Kelhammer and Marina Zurkow. On view are a selection of posters – at once funny and caustic, and always spot on. I enthusiastically second their public address: “Dear Climate, we know: we blew it. … We want to find ways to shift relations —with the spheres, with you, and also with our own unruly and uncertain inner climates.”
In Our Nature, curated to kick off the Rush Education Year of Nature, celebrates the astounding natural resources in our midst, addresses humankind’s deep devastation of nature, and aims to stir up positive fervor to do our best to cherish and protect our environment as we go forward. I do believe that we can and must find it in our nature and for our nature to care and to care deeply.
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