LAND at Irvine Fine Arts Center

LAND at Irvine Fine Arts Center ; Photo credit Yevgeniya Mikhailik. Courtesy of the gallery.
LAND at Irvine Fine Arts Center ; Photo credit Yevgeniya Mikhailik. Courtesy of the gallery.

Connecting with nature in LAND

through March 10
Irvine Fine Arts Center, Irvine

By Evan Senn
Exploring nature in all of its magnificent forms is an activity of great relief, of meditation, of education and of connection. In recent decades, as our cities expand and industry dominates our natural resources, we have made grave efforts to try and preserve and conserve mother nature, however, through art we can explore and preserve nature in other ways, further delving into the many wonders that mother nature has to offer us. “LAND” at Irvine Fine Arts Center is an inspiring and sensitive exhibition that seeks to explore, understand and visualize our connection to nature and to land, and helps us connect more deeply through creative expression.

“LAND” features visual, physical, interactive, symbolic and poetic artworks that all deal with our relationship with nature, specifically with the physical world we have been given. Chris Natrop’s fully immersive installation Half Light Candy Bowl Mashup and Jungle Diamond Burst in “LAND” both are incredibly detail-oriented, colorful, systematic and captivating. Like stepping inside a dreamscape, Natrop’s colorful cut-up world is bound together by fibers—reaching, pulling and pushing at itself—holding together but free to float as it wishes. It moves and bends with light, with shape, and with our interaction with it.

Christine Weir’s graphite drawings are visceral expressions of what looks like celestial bodies, moving through and around our sun, our moon, and our planet. With a strong physical presence, the mark-making in her graphite drawings on clay boards become topographic in nature, mapping out her exploratory journey through humanity and the beauty of the universe. The abstract marks can be seen as scars on the earth, human imprints, or the subtle movement of nature on its own evolutionary clock.

The salt crystal and ceramic installation by Christine Nguyen recalls an archaeological display, showcasing the beauty of the unknown, the factual play of science and art, and the bright colors of hope. Her references to historical analysis and excavation play with her abstract silhouette paintings on the walls. Her expressions are expertly curated together and touch on history in playful and romantic ways—the silhouettes whimsically cite the cave paintings at Chauvet, the evolution of art production, the primal values of life and death and preservation, and the Rayograph. Nguyen creates a fantastic dialogue between art and science, humanity and our natural world, and the imprint of our planet’s natural history.

Although our landscape is constantly changing, in every creation whether manmade or earth-made, the possibility for beauty is endless. Jennifer Celio crosses the boundaries of city and nature, of chaos and order—and references the fragility of all of it with her critical works in “LAND.” These works are tactile reflections and recreations of Antarctica’s evolution, that subtle touch on the human obsession of manipulation, as well as the rise in technology and industry by our hands, inevitably poisoning our land.

Additionally, Virginia Katz has created diorama-sized reflections of the physical connection with the landscape around us. Her acrylic sculptural paintings look like oceans and mountains, rock formations and shifting tectonic plates. The versatility in these works is hypnotic and creative. Viewers become entranced and inquisitive with one glance of these pedestal pieces. Layers upon layers of acrylic paint build the physical landscapes she curates in these fascinating visualizations of our planetary crises.

Michael Nannery and Kiyomi Fukui take a more tangible and experimental approach to reflect on our connection with nature—focusing on cultivation and caging plants in pottery and bounding boxes to keep nature in our control. However, Fukui’s Apologetic Garden is a refreshing interactive experiment that has elements of therapeutic tools mixed in with examinations of our sincere interest in death and rebirth. Fukui asks people to plant an apology letter as a seed in a seedbed, to let the apologies grow into tangible plants—giving new life to emotions and regret.

Immersing ourselves in the natural world is vitally important to our human existence. As a species, we have developed hand-in-hand with nature, and our physical well-being improves with every moment we are surrounded by nature. Our bodies are intrinsically linked with Earth’s environment, and experiencing nature through the eyes and hands of innovative and creative artists is fulfilling and stimulating—giving a wider scope for our relationship to nature to flourish.

“LAND” is on view through March 10.

Irvine Fine Arts Center,
14321 Yale Ave., Irvine, CA


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