I spent last weekend weeding at a community garden where my parents have a couple plots of greens and root vegetables. We were tasked with taming the common spaces: the tool shed, the wild garden, the rose trellis-covered paths that wind throughout. No one was really sure the last time a firm hand had tugged at these areas and it showed. Bindweed and Star of Bethlehem strangled the pole beans and choked the peonies. We worked for hours and filled a dozen bags with weeds.
British artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey use grass to make pictures—"living" photographs. Wielding the traditional tools of the artist and the gardener to harness a plant's natural photosynthesis, their process is a nice synthesis of art and science. Harvey describes their natural medium, saying, "The grass has a certain importance because of the simplicity of the blade.
Ten thousand daffodils bloom in the grass courtyard of Somerset House in London. While the flowers were installed to signal the beginning of spring, they are impervious to sun or rain—each daffodil is sculpted out of clay and metal. Chilean-born, London-based artist Fernando Casasempere developed the exhibit to explore the relationship between a reliable procession of the seasons, and the increasing fragility of nature.
A new exhibit explores the garden as inspiration. Tending Toward the Untamed: Artists Respond to the Wild Garden offers new work by eight artists in a variety of media including painting, animation, photography, and sculpture. The show explores the relationship between natural abandon and horticultural order as it grows in Wave Hill, a garden in the Bronx, New York, that overlooks the Hudson River.
In 1925 the Smithsonian Institution published a five-volume collection of botanic illustrations titled North American Wild Flowers. The lengthy work cataloged plants that grew throughout the continent, with companion information about each specimen.
Lori Nix is a "faux" landscape photographer. In other words, she builds her subject matter, rather than seeking it out. Her dioramas are precise snapshots in a longer story—surreal narratives with epic consequences. Varnished with a dash of humor and a touch of doom, her fantasticl landscapes arouse a perfect balance of curiosity and trepidation. Her built landscapes include remote pastures, suburban corners, and urban towers, and, quite often, her work depicts the quiet confrontations between these worlds.
Choi Jeong Hwa has been contributing to the international contemporary art world since the early 1990s; the LA Times named him "the internationally recognised leader of Korea's pop art movement." His aesthetic is large, bright, and surreal; he has been called a Korean Jeff Koons. While his work includes found objects and abstract installations, Choi often designs flowers, trees.
Quilting enthusiasts in New York City can visit "Botanical Inspirations," a show of 22 quilts by the Quilters Guild of Brooklyn. The exhibit is at the Windsor Terrace Library, and runs through February 7th (160 E. 5th St. at Ft. Hamilton Pkwy. Brooklyn, NY 11218). If you're not in the neighborhood, enjoy our slideshow with work by other quilters and appliqué designers.
Recently unveiled, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new American Wing is a fantastic collection of work that illustrates the influence of natural subjects on American artists. It includes paintings from the Hudson River School—Albert Bierstadt’s Rocky Mountains and Frederic Edwin Church's The Heart of the Andes—a group of landscape painters whose work conveyed the nation's mid-nineteenth century optimism and abundance.
Mitsuru Koga is an artist who emulates nature. Working with leaves, rocks, and driftwood, he becomes the hungry grasshopper, the abrasive sea, or the passage of time, adapting his methods for each different medium.
Leaf Cutouts (2009) recalls the silhouettes of devoured leaves. "An insect makes exquisite cutouts in a leaf," Koga reflects. "Inspired by these leaves, I began my creative process." The series was exhibited in a small gallery in Venice, California, along with a leaf cutting workshop with instruction by the artist himself.