The 2011 Invitational Exhibition, Natural Beauty, includes work by regional artists Julia Barello (Las Cruces, New Mexico), Susan Beiner (Tempe, Arizona), Suzi Davidoff (El Paso, Texas), and Ana Maria Hernando (Boulder, Colorado). Natural Beauty refers not only to the subject of the natural world, but also to the philosophical enquiry of beauty as found in nature.
Nature has inspired art and literature throughout the ages, and it was often the basis for early ponderings on the concept of beauty as illustrated in the writings of Plato, among others. This was soon displaced by art, only to return briefly to nature in the eighteenth century out of a growing interest in country life and travel. In the 1970s natural beauty, by then also known as environmental aesthetics, once again garnered a renewed interest, partially due to growing concerns about environmental protection. Today, natural beauty is accepted as a distinct category in the field of aesthetics and is recognized as unique to art in the way it is perceived and experienced.
The work included in Natural Beauty presents an array of concepts and approaches that explore nature and our relationship to it. Julia Barello dyes and cuts exposed x-ray film into nature-inspired shapes including birds, flowers, and leaves. The shapes—pinned to the wall in organic configurations—evoke an allusion to nature and our own mortality. Susan Beiner’s fanciful ceramic installations and sculpture explore people’s encroachment on the natural world. Leaf-encrusted forms hug the walls and floor sprouting Plexiglas rods and foam flowers—hybridizations of nature and urban sprawl. Suzi Davidoff creates drawings and paintings of plants she encounters during hikes. Her technique is one of layers in which she incorporates not only drawing media like graphite, gesso, watercolor, and charcoal, but also pigments derived from materials gathered during her walks including earth, dried moss, and recently, ash left by a local wildfire. Artist and poet Ana Maria Hernando integrates crocheted petticoats from Peru and embroidery by cloistered nuns in her birthplace of Argentina into floral-inspired installations to celebrate themes of womanhood and nature.
(Image: Ana Maria Hernando, El Corazón Inocente (The Innocent Heart) detail, 2010, color lithograph with collage; Courtesy of the artist and Roswell Museum and Art Center)