13 artists in one BRM exhibit

The first group contemporary exhibit at the Brandywine River Museum of Art showcases 13 established and upcoming artists and their responses to nature – the beauty, sustainability, hazards, and more.

“Natural Wonders: The Sublime in Contemporary Art” runs through Oct. 21.

“Artists since antiquity have sought to convey the splendor and power of the natural world,” guest Curator Suzanne Ramljak said in an introduction to the exhibit. “The thirteen artists featured in ‘Natural Wonders’ continue this centuries-old dialogue while lending new perspectives to the subject. Drawing on historical precedent, they approach nature with a mix of admiration and apprehension, reflecting both its beauty and potential danger.”

The exhibit begins in the atrium on the third floor of the Museum. There, a 35-foot-long model of part of the Brandywine River is suspended over the open space leading to the floors below. Artist Kathleen Vance added a working water element to her commissioned piece.

“Her commission offers visitors the rare opportunity to see her work within view of the very body of water that inspired it,” according to a press release. “With the river visible through the Museum’s floor-to-ceiling windows, the installation directly stages the interplay of artifice and nature at the core of the exhibition.”

Vance is one of the 13 artists featured in “Natural Wonders.” Her other pieces can be found inside the exhibit – re-creations of waterways, canyons and land inside vintage steamer trunks. For instance, “Traveling Landscape (Large round-top steamer)” greets visitors with water cascading through a forest of artificial foliage.

Ramljak described Vance’s work of capturing the feeling of not wanting to leave nature behind.

“You want the companionship of nature,” she said but added that the “Traveling Landscape” series also touches on land ownership, one of Vance’s concerns. “On the surface (the trunks) are delightful. But something’s happening under the surface.”

That theme – of the beauty of nature as well as the issues affecting it – runs throughout “Natural Wonders: The Sublime in Contemporary Art.”

Maya Lin, the architect/artist who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, uses recycled silver to memorialize three bodies of water in Long Island.

“She is thinking constantly about what is happening to the environment,” Ramljak said, commenting that her choice of material for “Bay, Pond & Harbor (Long Island Triptych)” is a precious material that also causes one to question how precious our waters are and what is in those waters.

In another piece, Lin gives visitors a unique visual of the Hudson River – steel pins in a white wall form an aerial view of the waterway.

Artists Mark Tribe and Diana Thater provide multimedia pieces for the exhibit, examining nature in two very different ways.

Tribe recorded 24 hours of high-definition video for his installation, “Balsam Lake: Mountain Wild Forest, Ulster County, New York,” that provides a “living color photograph,” according to Ramljak.

“This is as quiet and pure as you can get,” she said. “Our time of day is the time of day you’re seeing in this video. He is delivering new nature through technology.”

Thater’s video installation, “The Road to Hana Two,” layers different video feeds on top of each other, among other techniques.

“You’re brought face-to-face with suspended nature,” Ramljak said.

Thater is described as returning “a sense of enchantment to our encounters with nature, reconfiguring subjects as strangely splendorous,” according to a press release.

Artist Patrick Jacobs invites visitors to peer inside portholes throughout the exhibit and view miniature worlds of flora and fauna, where fungi, weeds, and mold are presented in the foreground.

“He sees them (the fungi, weeds, and mold) as underdogs,” Ramljak said. “He’s showing these as characters in the landscape that are almost heroic because of their fight to survive.”

T.J. Wilcox focuses his artistic contributions in the exhibit on clouds, using lenticular printing to create prints of shifting clouds that seem to follow the visitor as the move around. There are four lenticular duraclear prints in LED light boxes: “The Sun that Pins the Branches to the Sky,” “Wild is the Wind,” “There’s Something in the Sky,” and “I Will See You in the Sky.”

Other artists in “Natural Wonders: The Sublime in Contemporary Art” include Suzanne Anker, Lauren Fensterstock, Roxy Paine, Jennifer Trask, Dustin Yellin, and Miljohn Ruperto & Ulrik Heltoft.

Admission is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors 65 and older, $6 for students and children 6 and older, and free for children 5 and younger and for Brandywine Conservancy and museum members.

For more information, go online to www.brandywinemuseum.org or call 610-388-2700.

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About Monica Fragale

Monica Thompson Fragale is a freelance reporter who spent her life dreaming of being in the newspaper business. That dream came true after college when she started working at The Kennett Paper and, years later The Reporter newspaper in Lansdale and other dailies. She turned to non-profit work after her first daughter was born and spent the next 13 years in that field. But while you can take the girl out of journalism, you can’t take journalism out of the girl. Offers to freelance sparked the writing bug again started her fingers happily tapping away on the keyboard. Monica lives with her husband and two children in Kennett Square.

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