Jane Fulton Alt ~ Connie Wolfe ~ Donna June Katz ~ Vivian Visser
Exhibiting November 12- December 14
Gallery Reception: Thursday, November 15, 4:30 - 7:30 p.m.
About the Exhibit
Exhibition Guide: Natural Connections"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter." ~ Rachel Carson from "Silent Spring"
Nature in its many permutations has been a source of muse for visual artists for centuries, particularly in the Baroque era when landscape became an important subject in art. But before landscapes became the subject of their painting, artists often turned to natural elements as a source of study for their paintings; artists often sketched flowers, animals, landscape, oceans, and skies that would become an element in a larger historic or religious work. Nature could be shown as sublime or picturesque, calm or wild, but was a frequent source of interest for artists who wished to reproduce the wonders of what they saw.
In contemporary art, too, nature has been a muse for visual artists, but artists have broadened how they view nature from earlier centuries In the 21st century, artists understand the fragility of nature as mankind usurps our natural resources; artists also reflect with the help of science on the ceaseless wonders of natural forms. Artists might respond to the beauty of nature, the destructive power of nature or might use natural materials themselves as the source for their creative practice. Nature in its many forms, in its ability to transform, and in its cause for wonder, inspires artists to reflect on their own relationships to the natural world, and that is reflected in much art of our times.
The artists presented here use nature as a source for their investigation and creativity, but each in their own unique fashion. Their work is varied and yet related by its understanding and appreciation of the natural world. What connects their work is the passion to reflect, respect and transform their view of the natural world into works of art.
Jane Fulton's Alt's photographs investigate how man uses, and at times, abuses, the earth, but also how the earth triumphs through its own natural forces. Her Burn photographs reflect "exploration of the ineffable mystery of the life force, searching for what is true and eternal." Burns occur naturally in forests, as dry foliage is cleared for new growth; man has attempted to use burns, too, to control natural areas. These works resonate with our knowledge of the power of nature, and our fear of nature gone awry. They are beautiful, but their beauty is tempered by our own innate fear of fire out of control. They have a power to move us as they manifest both the tender quality of natures forms and yet, the destructive power that can be our own undoing.
Jane Fulton Alt is a fine art photographer in the living and working in Evanston. Alt is the recipient of the 2007 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship Award, multiple Ragdale Foundation Fellowships, and three time winner of Photolucida's Critical Mass for her Katrina and Burn portfolios. She has authored Look and Leave: Photographs and Stories of New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward and her Crude Awakening portfolio was printed in multiple publications worldwide, and picked up by multiple publications worldwide. She received the Photo District News 2011 Curators Choice Award and most recently the Humble Arts 31 Women in Art Photography, 2012. Alt's work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, New Orleans Museum of Art, De Paul University Art Museum, Southwest Museum of Photography, Beinecke Library at Yale University, Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo in Oaxaca, Mexico, Center for Photography at Woodstock, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, and the collection of William Hunt.
Connie Wolfe uses natural forms in her work to reflect the endlessly fascinating shapes, tenuous shifting relationships of fragments to the larger whole, and the beauty of our observed organic world. Her work, whether in two dimensional prints and drawings reflecting shadows of natural forms, or in installations of repeated fragile shapes, inspires us to look more closely at the world around us, to notice. She takes the forms of nature and abstracts them, so that we are conscious of the connections between leaves, shadows, petals, grasses and other sinuous and enticing shapes commonly found. Her works are elegant and lovely, and demand a multi-sensory and kinetic experience, as we move through and around her forms. We are moved to investigate the elusive quality of nature as shapes change and transform. Nature is always moving and changing, yet has a structural basis for its many shifts and elements.
Donna June Katz has worked with forms and content from nature for many years of her artistic practice. With her knowledge of natural history from her volunteer work at the Field Museum of Chicago, she has created works that reflect her interest in investigating the natural world around her. Whether in commenting on the ecology of an area or in etaphorically using insects and ancient life forms in her creations, Katz has intermingled life forms borrowed from paleontology and natural history to express her love of patterns and forms found in nature. Her research has led her to combine images from a wide range of sources in paintings and quilted works that use realism with the heightened color that abounds in the natural world. Instead of taking natural forms and abstracting them, she investigates the particular, asking us to look more closely, to appreciate even microscopic and specific detail, and then, the larger wonders of nature as we reflect on its sense of infinity. They are lovingly drawn and painted as if caressed with care. Our own appreciation of the natural world is heightened by viewing her work, as we see nature rich with endless variety and beauty.
The work of Vivian Visser takes what we know from nature and transcends our own observations to create the impossible. These are fantastic creations that take nature as their muse, but transform both natural materials and forms into a new mutated creation. The works resemble pods, nests, birds or other forms, and yet, are not realistic depictions as such. They are constructs that seem to have grown organically, but bend our own expectations to go beyond what nature itself makes. We are asked to extend our imaginations; they remind us of nature, and yet take us into an unknown realm. These sculptural forms are intricately constructed with seeds, grasses and other natural materials, meticulously crafted into new forms reminiscent of their sources. Their beauty and strength come from not only their exquisite craftsmanship, but from their grace and biologic quality. Each installation takes into account its site and setting, but also transforms the space into something unexpected.
Vivian Visser has been creating sculptural works exploring our spiritual relationship with Naturesince the early '90's. With works in national shows like, Vivian Visser, Solo Show, KathrinCawein Gallery of Art, OR. and Fertile Ground - Honoring Nature in Art at Imlay Fine Arts, NJ.and local exhibits such as Chicago's Twelve-12 Artists Mobilizing for the Earth, Zhou B ArtCenter and Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, and Cool Globes - Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet, at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, she has attempted to share her ideas about our need to create a better relationship with Nature as a way to find peace within ourselves and eachother. Most recently, she has completed a commission of interpretive public art work for the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve.
To create tangible change, she volunteers with many of Chicago's environmental groups such as Treekeepers, Audubon Society, Sierra Club, North Park Village Nature Center, and Lincoln Park Conservancy through restoration work, tree audits and monitoring.
Regular hours during exhibitions:
Monday through Thursday: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Wednesday and Thursday evenings: 5 - 7 p.m.
By appointment, phone (708) 709-3636
Christopher Art Gallery Director
Prairie State College
THE CHRISTOPHER ART GALLERY
Named for its generous donors, Bob and Marty Christopher. The Christopher Art Gallery is located on the main campus of Prairie State College. The gallery hosts six to eight shows per year, featuring local, regional and national artists, as well as student works. The Prairie State College Foundation oversees gallery operations. Gallery Director, Beth Shadur, recommends programming and often acts as curator for shows.
Programming varies by media, theme, and artists represented. However, there are several annual exhibitions:
A Spring exhibit showcases the work of talented high school students in District 515. PSC faculty jury this show and select awards.
The May show features the work of graduating PSC art students.
The August/September show highlights the portfolio of a PSC student who receives designation as the "Photographer-of-the-Year." Superior works by PSC art students in graphic communications, photography, and fine art are also exhibited.
Each year, the Christopher Art Gallery features a juried show of regional artists. The theme and exact dates of the exhibit change every year.