Open February 17 through October 6, 2019 at the Racine Art Museum (RAM), From Nature: Contemporary Artists and Organic Materials features primarily objects—sculptural, functional, and wearable—that incorporate items from the natural world as a means to explore materials and a way to investigate a variety of social, personal, environmental, and cultural issues.
Particular to place and time, organic materials are—and have been—used for baskets, jewelry, architecture, and other functional objects the world over. More and more in the last hundred years, they have also been made into fine art objects as artists have turned to varied sources to create works that reflect the environment.
RAM’s collection, with its emphasis on contemporary craft, offers a unique platform for this exhibition as so much of the work is built is from organically-based media, such as wood, paper, and clay. The works included in From Nature emphasize the natural as a found object—perhaps manipulated, but not in a way that dramatically disguises the source. Elements such as feathers, stones, shells, twigs, and hair play structural, metaphorical, or decorative roles in these artworks created during the last few decades.
Some of the featured artists, such as Dorothy Gill Barnes, “harvest” their materials as homage to the wonder and diversity of nature. Others like Jan Hopkins––who uses unexpected materials such as grapefruit peel and lotus seeds––look for abundant materials that can carry symbolic or metaphorical meanings. Meanwhile, Kyoung Ae Cho gathers, collects, and recycles natural materials in order to investigate how humans interact with nature as well as its cycles and internal processes.