Bradbury Art Museum Series Looks at Environment & Nature

JONESBORO – A new series of exhibitions will open to the public at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 9, at the Bradbury Art Museum on the campus of Arkansas State University.

Included are six artists, each with a distinct approach to the subject of the environment and nature. The artists include Jessica Green, Shea Hembrey, Adam Hogan, Linda Williams Palmer, John Salvest and Jennifer Steinkamp.  Hogan will discuss his work in an artist talk at 5:30 p.m. the same evening.

The work of these artists reflects on the beauty and majesty of the world. The darker, more transient aspects of nature are addressed, but so too is regeneration, serenity and the abundance offered us.  A recurring theme is the tree.  It serves as a metaphor, a celebratory symbol and a meditative structure.  We are warned of man’s destructive impact and what it means to be on this earth at this time.  The cycle of life is considered; we are reminded to slow down and take it all in; to respect Mother Nature and to find peace on this incredible planet.

Jessica Green – Quiet Work

The first of the six artists is Green, a homesteader and master weaver who lives and works in Appalachia.  Her creations are functional, beautiful works of art. From raising sheep and growing cotton to spinning fiber and harvesting plants for dyes, her handwoven textiles are intense labors of love that integrate her life and work. Her contemporary heirlooms are inspired by American heritage and what she terms, “traditional women’s work.”

Speaking of her textiles Green says, “I believe there is great merit to following in the footsteps of those who came before us. By tending the flame of household weaving, I aim to keep the fierce and tender craft alive and remembered. My work takes inspiration from the designs of Colonial American coverlets, which I deconstruct and reinvent to discover a draft that feels like my own retelling of the past.”

Shea Hembrey – Cycle

After a series of visits to European art venues, Hembrey, a native of Hickory Grove, became frustrated with the contemporary art he encountered and the scene that encompassed it. Based on these experiences he decided to assemble his own exhibition with a focus on what he felt was less obtuse, better crafted work.  The show he curated was documented in a 412-page book, “Seek: 100 in 2011 – The Inaugural Biennial.” He rose to fame following the release of the book, which featured the work of all 100 artists he included in the show.

The twist to what appeared as an otherwise straightforward story is that Hembrey had concocted all the 100 imaginary artists, their life stories and their artwork. He works adeptly in a variety of media and so was able to masterfully manage this somewhat Sisyphean feat, which was completed in a mere two-year period.

In a statement for the exhibition at BAM Hembrey says, “The ideas I am exploring always direct the methods and media that I use for a project. I spend time every day doing research about these subjects I’m trying to understand more deeply. Since my work focuses on the overall structures of nature, most of my research focuses on biology and physics. This research specifically determines the direction of each series of work: sometimes an idea is best explored in paintings, sometimes the artwork needs to exist out in nature, and sometimes the project needs to be ephemeral.”

Adam Hogan – Silent Forest

Hogan is an experimental artist working in film and sound.  Originally from Arkansas, this Seattle-based artist will exhibit “Silent Forest,” the first chapter from ec(h)o, a series of non-narrative experimental films and meditative installations that document and explore man’s often tumultuous and strained relationship with the landscape. Seeking out endangered thresholds, the installation explores the sonic events within a delicate wetland environment in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain and the industrial and commercial enterprises surrounding it.

“As an artist and filmmaker, I am fascinated by humanity’s presence within the landscape. Our appetite for resources, design and comfort has arguably made us the largest force that sculpts the earth. This project tries to re-contextualize these ecological issues and environments into a space for contemplationa space where the viewer can rethink the impact of the human influence on the landscape through the cinematic apparatus and immersion,” says Hogan about this project.

He continues, “Having grown up in rural Arkansas I was always very connected to the environment and the landscape. I have witnessed how lightly these changes to the planet, many permanent and irreversible, weigh on the human conscience. ec(h)o is a very personal project in many ways, embodying my own struggle with human ambition and protecting the planet. This project serves as a reflection of the acts we all witness, and yet don’t always see.”

Linda Williams Palmer – Champion Trees

Palmer’s drawings are of champion Arkansas trees.  A state champion tree is one that has been officially recorded and measured and is deemed to be is the largest of its species in that state. What began as a drawing of an oak in Texas has turned into a chronicle of the artist’s journey through Arkansas. Her goal is to locate and render the biggest, but not always the oldest trees the state has to offer.

She explains, “Trees are beautiful and magical, but most importantly, they are vital to our very existence. Two average mature trees can provide all the oxygen one person needs to live.  It is our responsibility to care for our trees and forests, and I appreciate those who preserve and manage them for future generations.”

John Salvest – Arboretum

Salvest, an artist best known for text-based assemblage formed from an obsessive accumulation of ordinary materials, has quietly been creating rubber stamp drawings for the past few decades.  What began as a play on words, he devised and produced a “tree” or a rack to hold rubber stamps of hand drawn images of individual tree leaves.

As his artist’s statement for the exhibition Salvest says, “Last fall I finally found some quality time to experiment, and eventually discovered that I could successfully recreate full trees solely from the use of one small handheld tool. But, of course, the mighty oak consists of many humble leaves. This realization provided something I continually long for in my studio practice: a completely self-generated context for intense and highly-focused labor wherein both spontaneity and a freeing mindlessness are reached. If a thing of beauty, whatever that may mean, is the end result, all the better. Nevertheless, deep in the welcomed meditation, as the sumac or the sassafras slowly reveals itself, I am a force of nature, I am an artist.”

Jennifer Steinkamp – Judy Crook 5

Steinkamp is an internationally known artist who lives and works in Los Angeles.  “Judy Crook 5,” the installation included in the exhibition, is a series that honors teachers she has known with tree dedications.

The namesake for the piece, Judy Crook, was her teacher at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, Calif., where the artist received her a Master of Fine Arts.

Her dedication is a projection of a tree that cycles through the seasons, from spring buds through the full foliage of summer, into the autumnal change and through the bare winter then back to spring again. This continuous loop allows the viewer to experience a whole year in just a few minutes. According to the artist, ” ‘it’s about a continuous cycling.’ There is no beginning or ending, no story or narrative and no overt moral tale is told.”

Nature and the great outdoors are such an important part of all cultures. Who better to interpret its meaning for all mankind than a collection of dedicated artists?

About BAM

BAM is in Fowler Center, 201 Olympic Dr.  Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and by appointment.  The exhibition, the artist talk and the reception are admission-free and open to the public.  For additional information one may contact the museum at (870) 972-2567.

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