We begin the 21st century with a new set of understandings vis a vis our place in the landscape and our relationship to nature. We share in the knowledge that our patterns of consumption, our rampant thirst for energy, and our sheer numbers are putting enormous pressures on our fragile planet. Contemporary artists who choose to address the complex realities of nature now do so with full knowledge of these pressures and navigate a range of responses from ironic nostalgia to unironic critique in the making of their work. The three painters whose work is the focus of Second Nature, provide us with a capsule survey of some of these responses and as a whole present an elegiac response. This exhibition provides a meditation on our passing from the unselfish all-giving Mother Nature to Nature as Our Garden in need of our protection and mindful embrace, as we evolve in this century to our Second Nature.
Amy Talluto is a painter for whom the romance of the natural world still exerts a powerful draw. She takes us to remote places where the influence of human activity is out of sight and rediscovers the intense magic and silent strangeness that nature can hold. Talluto’s high keyed Technicolor palette and assured, brutal, and painterly, brush strokes give the paintings a vibrant physicality. Her work reminds us of the rough virgin territories that provided a home for Native Americans and that so excited America’s pioneers. Her un-peopled landscapes may also remind us that wildness still exists, for now, by the grace of our stewardship.
Lauren Gohara is known for her exquisite paintings of hyper realistic, lovingly rendered single feathers adrift on jewel-like fields of blue, an ongoing series in which she presents evidence of nature found amidst the grit of urban streets. In her new series of work, Pax Americana, she filters her metaphoric flight through the darker lense of political commentary. In these new paintings feathers that could have been plucked from the dove of peace gather in clusters, sometimes mixed with olive leaves or tipped in blood, against deep earthy backgrounds that fade into a rich black. The results are a beautiful reflective poem and a subtle lament.
Timothy McDowell approaches landscape and natural themes with a collector’s eye, much like the creator of a Victorian “Wunderkammeru201D; or cabinet of curiosities, and presents his finds with a collagists’ sensibility. His encaustic paintings and works on paper mix calligraphic plant forms, elegant bits of drawing borrowed from a widely ranging index of natural history sources, and iconic shards of decorative patterning found in Hindu and Persian miniatures against warm variegated washes of color. The paintings layered, gently abraded surfaces and antique sources present the viewer a nostalgic atmosphere where disparate images merge into rebus-like puzzles that hint at both natural processes and our attempt to understand them through our obsession for categorizing and naming natural history.