Morgan Lehman is pleased to present The Inner Life of Trees, a solo exhibition of recent paintings by Judith Belzer. Belzer investigates and reveals our relationship to trees and nature by de-generalizing it, pressing closer, and shifting our perception and expectation of it. Her craft unfolds on canvas: subtle movements, plays with light, oil paint laid down thin as skin, tricking the eye into miles of depth.
Throughout our documented history, trees have played an ever-present role as an emblem of our shifting cultural values and concerns. They have served variously as symbols of continuity, of precariousness and peril, of culture and political stability, and of our evolving perception of wilderness. Belzer depicts abstract, unexpected, and detailed views of these trees and their surfaces, departing from the traditional conventions of landscape painting in which nature is neatly ordered around a horizon line located in the distance of the pictorial space. Rather than viewing nature from afar, Belzer takes an ant’s-eye view of her subject, and presents an opportunity for the viewer to form a new relationship with trees and wood, by recognizing their absolute pervasiveness in our daily lives. Belzer comments, “Some of the paintings offer a view of wood that would be impossible to obtain were it not for the work of a saw or some other human tool. Wood is in my everyday life everywhere I look. It is under my feet (floorboards); now I’m sitting on it (chair); it’s in my hand as I work all day (paintbrush handle); and now it rests on my chest before I drop off to sleep (book). Wood and human culture rub up against one another in an almost constant and unavoidable dance.”
In modern existence, it is so common to pass right by nature, without taking the time to experience it, or even consider our relationship to it. Belzer’s new work asks us to stop and look deeper. She says, “Lots of people assume that nature is something found only in wilderness parks, unchanging and saved for vacation days. During these times of mounting worries about the degradation of our local landscapes, an intimate engagement with nature, a recognition of the active part it plays in our daily experience, seems particularly urgent. While we humans might think everything revolves around our own life cycles, we are just one player in nature going about its business. Don’t we need to come to an understanding about how to live in a truly reciprocal relationship with other species- if only for the self-interested reason of our own survival?”
Judith Belzer currently lives and works in Berkeley, California. Her recent exhibitions include The Sonoma County Museum, Santa Rosa, CA, Valerie Carberry Gallery, Chicago, IL and The Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, NY.