The Art of Eco Materialism

Unison Arts Center and SUNY New Paltz students have collaborated to create installations responding with ephemeral sculptural installations using an Eco Materialism theme. Inspired by Linda Weintraub’s forthcoming book, What’s Next? Eco Materialism & Contemporary Art, this exhibit responds to the urgent environmental neglect we witness in the world today. The exhibiting artists present their artworks as thoughtful responses, including the selection of materials.

The exhibit, What’s Next, also provides an ideal opportunity for a summer stroll with time to pause and consider each of the 29 stations where work has been constructed onsite, many times with items sourced from the Unison property. Michael Asbill, Visiting Lecturer at SUNY New Paltz involved students in his Collaborative Constructions course in this exhibit. Amanda Heidel, participated as a student and commented, “Starting with reading and interpreting Linda Weintraub’s text to form a proposal, to developing a list of artists to invite to respond to the text, contacting artists, reviewing of proposals, preparing the site at Unison, and assisting artists with installing their work, students were involved in every aspect of mounting this exhibit.” Visitors to the site will experience artworks that are about process, while some project a utopian viewpoint of beauty. At the gateway to the installation pick up a walking guide to get additional information on the artists’ process in approaching Eco Materialism in their pieces.

Enjoy! Moira Williams Matters of CareMoira Williams exhibits Matters of Care, featuring a stack of cannon-ball size soil filled with positive bacteria. The artist has researched Mycobacterium vaccae, known as the ‘happy bacteria’ living in soil and invites all who pass to take one home to share. Beth Haber’s installation To Be Written shows four paired slate tablets placed on podiums supported by the remains of four ash trees in a compass formation. Visitors have the opportunity to write messages, which will then be wiped clean by the natural process of rain, wind, or over-writing, suggesting that we have the power to start a new movement that considers nature first.

Enjoy! Susan Togut's Emergent Wisdom (1)

As you meander further down the path you might be drawn to the sound of water where Susan Togut’s Emergent Wisdom is installed above the Unison pond. Togut’s statement reads, “this environment seeks to evoke an appreciation for change, transformation, uncertainty, the magic of the unknown as in creativity, and the ephemerality of life.” Most of the pieces in the show focus on the transient, from the materials, used that naturally change over time, to the concepts presented in each piece. Jan Harrison and Alan Baer created Halcyon, a mythical nest-world for endangered and bird-like creatures that floats above in the tree limbs. The artists stated this is a “refuge and a place of rebirth in the global world of the sixth extinction, the Anthropocene.”Enjoy! Jan Harrison and Alan Baer's Halcyon

Exploring the exhibit heightens our sense of awareness towards the natural world. Perhaps this will extend our views on Eco Materialism as a life practice and new art movement that could change our world for the better, ensuring that we have a say in what’s next.

This article was originally published in the Poughkeepsie Journal Enjoy! section July 27, 2018.

 

Abstract Expressionism lives on!

Abstract Expressionism developed through a New York school of painters and established an art movement born in the United States. Let us consider Elaine De Kooning and Grace Hartigan, whose paintings exude a sense of energy in the paint application, or Lee Krasner’s work, filled with abstract forms that feel reminiscent of a fantastical landscape. However, in the machismo world of the Abstract Expressionists, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell are historically mentioned as making important contributions to this movement – at this point in time, we should acknowledge a more equitable list of artists contributing to this movement.

The Hudson Valley region has many artists that have made their life here, including artists whose work is inspired from the Abstract Expressionists. Barbara Gordon’s art must be included in this group and it is a pleasure to see a full body of her work in this solo show, “Active Engagement – Testing Boundaries.” The exhibit is aptly named, as active engagement has been the consistent thread for the artistic output seen in the show and evident over a lifetime of her artistic career. Barbara Gordon states: “My academic grounding, at Cooper Union, was firmly in the abstract expressionist tradition, in which figurative work was a virtual taboo.”

The artworks in this exhibit show the growth of the artist’s vision after her early studies. For instance, the artwork, “Faith in a Seed 1,” utilizes a variety of materials she uses as her medium: papers, cardboard, scraps of wood, and paint. Through collaging of the materials and overpainting, the drips and faint markings are composed around a wood fragment with rusted nails. Many of the pieces for the exhibit the artist has composed wood framing devices, pieced together from wood scraps from her barn. For instance, “Bent Tree Construction” has vivid hues of blue and orange establishing a dynamic palette, while the wood pieces carefully fitted together add the touch of the human hand to the composition. Thoughtfully layered cardboard, watercolor papers and paint give the work a feeling of a precious relic.

bent tree construction 1Gordon’s dynamic painting style is evident in “Notes on a Red Headed Woodpecker,” the delicate nuances of the background creates a dimensional foil for the energetic red and black slashes, which are reminiscent of gestures seen in Franz Kline’s works. This piece, however, exudes an other-worldly serenity where that energy can abide. In the painting, “Blue,” the artist uses an energetic paint application, including drips overpainted with layers of color: blue, sap green, and red compete for space in a composition that seems inspired by the landscape.

notes on a red headed woodpeckerThe exhibit is rich with visions that the artist has captured working out of her Accord studio, which she described as her artistic practice: “Now, being directly in nature, living along a rail trail, surrounded by silence and the constantly changing light in the land, mountains and sky I strive for a synthesis of pure abstraction with the concrete, specific images of nature, animals, and people that have interested me since childhood.”

BLue