Transience and Transformation in Nature
Curated by Elsa Mora
“We may learn a great deal from books, but we learn much more from the contemplation of nature—the reason and occasion for all books. The direct examination of phenomena has an indescribably disturbing and leavening effect … [a] revitalizing quality altogether absent … in even the most faithful copies and descriptions of reality.”
— Santiago Ramón y Cajal, 1897
ArtYard is pleased to present (in)animate, a group exhibition featuring the works of Thomas Beale, Bruce Gardner, Naoko Ito, Luci Jockel, Margaret Parish, Lauren Rosenthal, and Carrie Witherell. Using organic matter or man-made materials that have fallen to natural processes, each artist’s practice is rooted in an examination of nature. Through the repurposing of dirt, tree branches, sunlight, water, bones, insects, rocks, and rust, hybrids emerge in the form of sculpture, drawing, photography, and installation.
In pondering what animates nature and what is missing in its absence, the artists in this exhibition reveal the innate memory of organic matter even long after its readaptation. The works on view invite us to examine our own cycles of transience and transformation, as well as the symbiotic relationship between our essence as living organisms and the environment.
Bruce Gardner specializes in the Japanese art of Hikaru Dorodango. They are balls crafted from soil molded by hand into perfect spheres, dried, and then polished to create a sheen. This is a traditional pastime among many children in Japan, and through many years of perseverance Bruce has been able to refine the process himself and has added his own techniques to create one of a kind spheres from local soils found near his own home in New Mexico.
Carrie Witherell uses a variety of mediums in the photographic realm as well as traditional painting and drawing techniques to create a rich visual impact. Her artwork features themes of the natural world and how we relate as individuals, our coping mechanisms, and personal struggles. Her piece for the exhibition is a large cyanotype.
Lauren Rosenthal’s massive map installation employs rocks from local creeks and riverbeds which have been ground into pigment. Ecology, the science of relationships between organism and environment, serves as the conceptual framework of her investigation, and maps provide the visual language for her expression. She makes prints, drawings, and sculptures that use the river as both a literal and metaphorical symbol of interconnectedness.
Luci Jockel, a RISD graduate, is a multimedia artist whose painstaking work is constructed of woven bee wings, bones, and other materials. In her practice, she seeks to give a voice to the deceased beings in the hopes of building an interconnectivity between human and animal.
Margaret Parish is a RISD graduate with a keen eye for the subtle and those natural processes that involve decay, transformation, and surprise. A hunter and collector of uncommon objects affected by time and the elements, she creates intriguing sculptures, photographs, and installations by combining unexpected materials such as metal and plaster, potatoes and nails, etc. In her practice, the actions of seeing/noticing and making, are organically interwoven.
Born in Tokyo, Japan, Naoko Ito is a New York-based artist working in sculpture, installation, and video. Her pieces are inspired by urban attempts to tame or contain nature. In the installation that she is bringing to (in)animate, Naoko employs glass containers and severed tree branches which convey the illusion of plant material growing through glass.
Thomas Beale is a New York-based sculptor. He founded and directed the Honey Space, an innovative “no-profit” gallery in Chelsea, from 2008 to 2012. Starting with found and reclaimed materials, notably wood and shells, Beale processes them into small, workable units, which he then assembles to create the organic and sensuous shapes of his sculptures. The diversity of those individual segments lends richness and a sense of movement to both his large and small-scale work.
The Museum of Natural Curiosities
(in)animate includes separate exhibition curated by Jill Kearney and inspired by the Rhode Island School of Design’s Nature Lab, a miniature natural history museum which since the early 1900s has provided a library of natural materials for artists’ study and inspiration. Throughout the duration of the show, the public is invited to model a range of headpieces built with natural materials or create and bring their own for instant portraits in the ArtYard Photomat.