Artists Put a Spin on Nature in Exhibition at the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center

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“As a maker, we can’t ever make anything as sublime and as perfect as nature,” said Rain Harris. “Nature just does it better than anybody else.”

In the new exhibition at the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center titled “Nature Redefined,” which opened Wednesday and runs through July 21, artists such as Harris won’t try to replicate the beauty of nature but instead, will put their own spin on it.

Harris has more than a dozen pieces in the exhibit, and her work ranges from somber black and white porcelain flowers to the brighter pieces in her “Topia” collection, which features colorful, resin-dipped flowers. She said she often takes artificial and cheap flowers from the dollar store to highlight the tackiness of the material and manipulate it so it feels more elegant.

She said the title of the exhibit shows it’s important for artists to find different ways to express their own opinions instead of trying to duplicate something so extraordinary as nature.

“I make things that have flowers in it, but it’s not my intention to necessarily recreate a specific flower. It’s more to create a mood or a feel,” Harris said. “I really like that title because as artists, we have to unpack the material, … the concept that we’re working with and figure out a way of interpreting it so it becomes filtered through our own voice.”

For David Hicks, his work is more of an exploration into his own reactions to the natural world around him. Hicks has four pieces in the exhibit, two of which are hanging and two are wall pieces. To make the hanging work, Hicks took ceramic objects and hung them to convey “power in the numbers.” He said the work isn’t necessarily changing the meaning of nature but showing viewers the way he personally perceives it.

“[Artists are] not necessarily redefining it in a concrete sense but presenting our own dialect, our own artistic freedom of how we pronounce our world, our shapes our forms, our understanding of what it is to be an artist who’s inspired by nature,” Hicks said.

Along with ceramists Harris, Hicks and Shoji Satake, Nancy Blum’s drawings are also featured at the exhibit in order to experiment with shape, size and scale, according to Judy Barie, the Susan and Jack Turben Director of VACI Galleries. Blum’s works, which are large drawings of plants and flowers, contrast against the smaller pieces of other artists.

Blum, who uses oil-based pencils to create a richness in her drawings, said although her work is technically flat, when examined, it looks more layered and fits in with the artists’ works.

“My work, while it’s two-dimensional, it’s very three-dimensional in its experience of it. Things feel like they’re coming off the page a little bit,” Blum said. “It’s really nice to have objects in the same environment because rather than sitting back in space, my work can come forward and interact with them.”

She also said one of the reasons she creates such large-scale work, such as her painting “Verdant,” which is 4 feet long and 10 feet wide, is to capture the innate strength present in nature.

“I’m not making little withering flowers — they should be majestic,” Blum said. “Human beings, historically, we have used plants and nature for our own benefit. … My work is about them just having their own lives as separate from us. … They’re not just decorative images for our pleasure, they’re being themselves and nature actually is very powerful and always thriving and will outlive us.”

Rachel Yang

The author Rachel Yang