Scaling Nature

Scaling Nature

Scaling Nature

Curated by Gail Nathan

Artists: Michele Brody, Wildriana Paulino, Linda Cunningham

Exhibition Dates: January 19 to March 4, 2023

The following events will be presented in conjunction with “Scaling Nature”
Opening Reception: Thursday, January 19th  6:30 - 8:30pm
Artist Talk: IN CONVERSATION Thursday, February 9th 5:30 - 7:00pm
Paper Making Workshop: Friday, February 3rd 3:30 - 5:30pm as part of BRAC’s new Open Lab and Workshop Day, All materials will be supplied by BRAC 

RSVP for Exhibition Events

The Bronx River Art Center will open its 2023 exhibition season with “Scaling Nature”, a show of large-scale mixed-media installation works by three artists: Michele Brody, Linda Cunningham and Wildriana Paulino.

BRAC’s Executive Director, Gail Nathan, curated this show to present visual art that operates in, or reflects, in personal ways, the monumental scale that the natural world encompasses. From the vast whirlwinds of hurricanes expressed by Linda Cunningham’s immense painting, to the tornado-like force of Wildriana Paulino’s spiraling translucent objects, to Michele Brody’s sheets of cast handmade paper with Cattails in relief capturing the subtle loss of natural species from our day to day lives, these massive artworks invite the viewer to be engulfed by a feeling of being at the same time, one with nature and wary of the effects of climate change and pollution on our “environment” and our beings. 

These three artists present the power of nature to both nurture and destroy through the use of materials from the ephemeral to the concrete. Paulino and Brody both work with cast handmade paper that by virtue of their lightweight  medium can suspend from the gallery ceiling to command the spaces their works engulf. Paulino’s work depends upon natural light, which in this exhibit is provided by the gallery’s large south-facing windows to unveil “Mother” nature’s link to humans through its translucent screens. Michele Brody’s solid sheets outlining the forms of native plants, represent how multiple species of the natural world are in peril of extension due to Climate Change. And Linda Cunningham’s sculptures of repurposed wood and steel rise up from the floor to highlight the futility of trying to protect ourselves from the inevitable entropy of nature.

“Scaling Nature” takes advantage of our 12 foot ceilings, large open space and natural light to present sculptural works that invite the viewer to walk into, around and through monumental forms that carry messages of both warning and hope.

 

Photo: Michele Brody, Nature in Absentia: A Lost Marshland, Handmade paper

Michele Brody 

For “Scaling Nature” I am premiering “Nature in Absentia: A Lost Marshland.” This new installation, which has been 2 years in the making, is a 9’3" high by 8’9” diameter cyclorama composed of extra-large hanging sheets of double-sided handmade paper depicting local Cattails (Typha latifolia) cast in relief with regenerated pulp made from non-native/invasive phragmites reeds (Phragmites australis.) At first glance the exterior of the cyclorama seems to represent a well-lit healthy marshland. The viewer is invited to walk around cascading sheets of paper, which sound like rain when rustled by passersby towards an entrance into a darkened interior revealing an environment in distress. The only Illumination are the gallery lights filtering through the sheets of paper. Transforming the once solid surface with an eerie glow, revealing deep empty caverns left behind where the cast cattails were excavated, signifying being taken over by the phragmites. In the center lies a video floor projection featuring mass migrations of animals, plants, goods and people over bodies of water. Highlighting how the loss of natural biodiversity due to globalization and climate change is in stark contrast to the world’s ever expanding racial and cultural diversity spurred on by these human developments.

“A Lost Marshland” is part of a larger series titled “Nature in Absentia” that developed while isolating during the Pandemic. The inspiration behind this body of work focuses on capturing not only the physical loss of bio diversity, but the emotional sense of loss we have all been encountering during these times. While ironically, during the Lockdown, Nature had a chance to flourish without modern human intervention for a change.

 

Photo: Wildriana Paulino, Maternity Figure/Figura materna, Handmade paper, soil, human hair, wool and metal

Wildriana Paulino

For “Scaling Nature” I will present an installation titled “Decandencia” of 23 cast bronze figures laid our on 30 running feet of baseboard along the exhibition wall. Next to this installation I will also hang Maternity Figure / Figura materna. Utilizing materials of organic origins, Maternity Figure proposes the reconnection with the Earth as the mother of everything that surrounds us. Recognized as Pachamama by Andean indigenous communities, Ishtar by Mesopotamians, and Gaia by the Greeks, the ever-evolving connection between humans and earth presents a record of human life passages. Suspended from the ceiling, a spiral holds hundreds of pieces of paper containing hair, soil, and wool. With the experience of light and movement, these materials intermingle and transport us to the imaginary spiral of existence. Through its shape, the spiral reminds us of the womb, of paths, and continuity. Maternity Figure presents its account of life passages as an anachronistic event. The layering of compositions in the spiral does not hold a specific order. Just like life itself, events happen simultaneously, and layer together to create a path that becomes ever-evolving in its organic and sporadic nature. By walking through the narrow path of the spiral, our bodies envelop in a multitude of compositions. The space between our bodies and the paper becomes one of intimacy. We grow aware of the space our bodies occupy in the literal spiral of life, and through this realization, we become once again entrapped in a close relationship with what we once were and will be again: earth. This piece comes to BRAC after recently being exhibited in the New York Latin American Art Triennial 2022, Governors Island, NYC.

 

Photo: Linda Cunningham, Sculptural Transformations, Wood and steel

Linda Cunningham

My work deals with issues of time, transience, contradictions, and compelling environmental concerns framed through urban blight and the threat posed by the loss and alterations of the natural environment. I often transform found structural remnants and industrial materials as a kind of “urban mining” as aesthetic and metaphoric evidence of the transitory nature of man-made structures. The sculptural pair, “Sculptural Transformations” were built from 4” thick red pine structural beams, rescued as they headed to a dumpster where an historic structure in lower Manhattan was gutted. The twisted steel I Beams were also headed for the scrap yard. The red pine was almost logged out and no longer available as a building material.

Torn edges and bifurcated sections of the large canvas, titled “The Force,” merge entropic, turbulent, fractured perspectives. The work responds to the extraordinary increasing force & frequency of the hurricanes & tornadoes but also the un-known black holes, and random comets.

Artist Bios:

Michele Brody’s long-term project “Nature in Absentia” is being produced as part of a virtual residency with the US Forest Service Urban Field Station. Since completing her MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fibers and Material Studies Department in 1994, she has maintained a full-time studio/exhibition practice as a mixed-media community-based environmental artist in France, Germany, Costa Rica, Taiwan, California and in her current home of NYC and The Bronx. Recent one-person shows include Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont, the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the artist-run spaces JVS Project Space and AAA3A. Brody completed two public art commissions in The Bronx for the MTA and DOE in 2006. In 2011 she was awarded Best 3-D Entry at the international Art Prize competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has received numerous grants and residencies in her career as a professional artist from: the Pollock/ Krasner Foundation, NYFA, NYSCA, LMCC, Bronx Council on the Arts, Skowhegan, Headlands Center for the Arts, Ox-Bow, Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program and most recently at Wave Hill Garden, BronxArtSpace and at Hospitalfield in Scotland. 

Linda Cunningham is a New York City based artist who exhibits extensively both in New York and Germany, and had recent one-person exhibitions with ODETTA Gallery (2019, 2017, 2015) and the Bronx Museum (2016/17 and 2010). Other one-person exhibitions include Abington Art Center, Philadelphia; the Fundacion Euroidiomas, Lima, Peru; and the Statt Museum, Cologne Germany. Cunningham’s monumental public sculptural installations and alternative memorials are permanently sited in Cologne, Kassel, Bad Hersfeld Cornberg, all in Germany; City of Sculpture, Hamilton, Ohio; Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, N.J.; and Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa. Temporary installations were formerly sited at UN Plaza, New York 1997-1998, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, CUNY Graduate Center on 42nd St across from Bryant Park, and in Tribecca. Her exhibition record includes 47 One Person exhibitions including public art sculptural installations in permanent collections in both Germany and the USA, and 75+ group exhibitions in the USA, Germany and the Netherlands. She is the recipient of multiple grants from the Bronx Council on the Arts; Pa Council on the Arts; Fulbright Senior Research fellowship, Berlin; Arts International Kade Collaborative Works; and the John Anson Kittredge Foundation; and was the Arthur and Katherine Chair of Humanities, Franklin and Marshall College, now Emerita. She has a MFA from Syracuse, Univ. & a BFA from Ohio Wesleyan Univ.

Wildriana Paulina is a multidisciplinary artist who received her BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art. As a high school and undergraduate student she participated in multiple cultural programs across the city, including with the Studio Museum in Harlem and Kenkeleba House. In 2019 she began a series — Una Para Cada Una (One for One) — investigating femicides (the normalized killing of women for being women) in the Dominican Republic, her country of origin. Relating the abuse of female bodies to the abuse of the body of Earth, she created 132 linked clay pieces shaped like rounded veils, memorializing murdered women. Invited by Women's Strike NYC, for International Women's Day 2020 a version of Una Para Cada Una was installed on the earth, as a linked spiral, in Washington Square Park. In 2022 she continued working the issue of violence against women in Decadencia (Decadence), creating 50 caste bronze figures with accompanying texts, prints and handmade papers representing female lives lost. 

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BRAC's programming is made possible with support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, including Council Member Eric Dinowitz and the Bronx Delegation. Additional support is from Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, the NYS Council on the Arts with support from Governor Kathy Hochul and the NYS Legislature including Senator Luis R. Sepúlveda. Foundation support is from Con Edison: The Power of Giving, BronxCare Health System, New York Community Trust and private donors.