The Art Blog
Out of Bounds
– Artists on nature at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education
August 25, 2012
In the picnic area, Susan Benarcik’s piece, “Why our Hangers,” droops from tree limbs. Her sculpture of droplets is made of wire hangers for clothing; she asks viewers to consider our role in consumption with her use of a common disposable household item.
The group show at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, hosted by the SCEE and the Center for Emerging Visual Artists presents a wide range of pieces by seven different artists, all inspired by nature and intended to elicit reflection on our interaction and relationship with the natural. Out of Bounds commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Schuylkill Center’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, which treats and rehabilitates thousands of animals per year.
As we entered, Mami Kato and Caleb Nussear’s works were waiting for our appreciation, situated along the pond at the entrance to the Center. Nussear’s piece, composed of mirror and iron, sits on the ground beneath a shady bower and closely resembles the play of light through leaves on the forest floor. In his statement he explains his interest in mathematical patterns and their relation to patterns in nature. The mirrored glass is arranged in Penrose Tiling, which appears to exhibit five-fold symmetry, but never actually repeats. His work accomplishes a difficult feat—weaving together scientific thought with artistic expression in order to bring dimensionality to the experience of spending time outdoors.
Kato’s piece explores the intersection she observes between our perception of the physical world and the knowledge of the molecular world. Her three-part installation shows what appear to be two molecules, a bond and a wave. The wave could be imagined to blend seamlessly with the ripple of the water, while the bonded molecules float above and also mingle with the wave. We were informed by Center staff that Kato’s work had to be moved from her originally intended point of display — floating in the center of the pond — to a spot alongside, due to unforeseen complications with the lining of the pond. We saw what she was aiming for at any rate and thought the piece was an interesting take on the observed and unobservable.
Inside the main building, Darla Jackson’s “Birthday Party” is a curious scene. Resinous, monochromatic, party hat-clad animals surround a chaotic birthday party table; the candles on the cake are blown out, frightened squirrels scurry up the walls while a formidable cat arches its back, presumably hissing (if the sculpture could hiss). A deer lays on the floor, seemingly dead or injured, lending a somber mood to the revelry as the animals seem to have stopped celebrating in concern for the injured animal. This piece seems to focus on the work of the Center’s Rehabilitation Clinic and is certainly a lively centerpiece for the show.
Outside in the sensory garden, Ana Hernandez’s and Brooke Hine’s pieces face each other, with Hine’s tough porcelain sculptures contrasting nicely with Hernandez’s soft forms. Hernandez’s fabric, rope, and wire installation focuses on the conflict between nature and nurture, the organic and the imposed. The piece looks like it’s referencing part of the female reproductive system; the saturated hue of pink fabric made us feel a bit uncomfortable. Hine’s sculpture is a series of porcelain anemones placed atop tree trunks and covered with woodchips. Both artists utilize repetition to make a statement.
The seventh and final work in the show is by Scott Pellnat. His piece is a hand-crafted boat covered in plastic detritus, which has been overgrown with plant life (we were told this was his intention for the piece). He asks the viewer to consider the brutal nature of human history in connection to nature.
The works in the show span decidedly different subject matter, but all hold the connecting thread of the show: to recreate or rethink subjects from nature.
Out of Bounds is on display at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education until September 2. More information and gallery hours can be found by visiting their website.