Art Nature Dialogues
Interviews with Environmental Artists
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: State University of New York Press
ART NATURE DIALOGUES
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FOREWORD: Eco-Art, Then and Now
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No significant movement in art remains independent of social and historical forces. Nor can it remain independent of surrounding, related artistic impulses, which may not be pursuing the same ends. These are things that emerge clearly from John Grande’s fascinating series of interviews with artists In a broad sense, ecological art and land art have a much longer history...
INTRODUCTION: True to Nature
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The artists whose works I have selected for inclusion in this book come from a variety of countries in Europe and North America. Each has a particular way of working with nature, of expressing their art in tandem with nature. Each brings their own specific experience to bear on this new paradigm. I discovered them one by one. And each brought a new awareness of the incredible...
1. REAL LIVING ART!: David Nash
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Since the 1970s British sculptor David Nash has been involved with creating sculptures and living art installations the world over. He is perhaps best known for his sculptures that involve living elements, such as trees, whose growth has been redirected. The most notable of these include the Ash Dome (1977), a ring of twenty-two ash trees initiated near David Nash’s home in Wales and...
2. YARDWORKING: Patrick Dougherty
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North Carolina artist Patrick Dougherty’s freeform assemblages woven together out of tree branches are visual enigmas embodied by the artist with a fanciful, fairytale quality. Internationally recognized for the outdoor installations he has made in parks, galleries, gardens, and museum spaces in Japan, Europe, and North America, Patrick Dougherty exploits the supple tension...
3. ECO-HABITAT: Gilles Bruni and Marc Babarit
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Gilles Bruni and Marc Babarit are two French artists who have collaborated on projects at TICKON in Langeland, Denmark, Enghien, north of Paris, in Germany, and in Italy. After studying agriculture in the 1970s, Bruni and Babarit experimented independently with painting and sculpture. They abandoned their respective artistic practices in the 1980s to share a neutral and...
4. EPHEMERAL PUBLIC ART: Jerilea Zempel
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Renowned for her public art installations and “mock monuments” that appropriate urban and natural detritus, “transforming them into strange shadows of their former identities,” New York–based Jerilea Zempel’s art projects bring together feminist and ecological concerns, but do so with a wry sense of humor. Among her best known works are Excess Volatility, created at Battery...
5. IN NATURE’S EYES: Alfio Bonanno
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A pioneer of the site-specific nature installation, Alfio Bonanno uses nature’s materials, cutting, lifting, carrying, bending, and placing them to build artworks that have a rough feel to them. Ephemeral and earth bound they establish links with nature, a reminder that nature is both a spiritual source and practical provider for humanity’s needs. When he arrived in Denmark...
6. MECHANICAL BOTANICAL: Doug Buis
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As early as 1958, Marshall McLuhan was already addressing the effects of electronic technology on North American culture when he wrote: “The effects of the sheer aesthetics of print on art and science were both extensive and subliminal or unconscious. And today the effects of the electronic revolution are quite as pervasive in every sphere of human perception and...
7. DESIGNING WITH NATURE
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A graduate of Cornell in Fine Arts, Michael Singer has, since 1971, received prizes and grants, notably from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His art can be found in the collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Australian National Gallery, Canberra; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark; the Solomon R....
8. THE VEGETAL (AND MINERAL) WORLD(S) OF BOB VERSCHUEREN
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Belgian artist Bob Verschueren is not only a veteran of vegetal art; his works are likewise daring in their use of mineral matter. Nature silently and surreptitiously invades the meaning of art in his art. His ephemeral artworks do not seek to conquer or possess a space, but in creating scenarios that are site-, light-, and earth sensitive heighten our awareness of the actuality of a...
9. NATURE VISION: Nils-Udo
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Active in the field of environmental art since the 1960s, Nils-Udo builds structures, elaborates on the landscape in a scale that fits, montaging natural materials on site. Thus links are established between horticulture and art, but with a basic sensitivity to the history of the landscape and land. Nils-Udo’s approach is tactile and often extemporaneous, creates a visual counterpoint...
10. RIVERWORK: Mario Reis
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Nature and art are less critically segregated and life takes precedence over art when German artist Mario Reis makes “nature watercolors.” He does so by placing cloth framed by wood into a river and allowing mineral and vegetal sediment and color to accumulate on its surface. Water is the paintbrush that moves and displaces the sediment and color on these works of art. Reis draws...
11. COSMOLOGICAL SHADOWS: Bill Vazan
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Physically imprinted on the land surfaces of the five continents—North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia—over the past thirty years, Bill Vazan’s land art projects originated out of the conceptual and minimalist art tendencies of the 1960s. Many of Vazan’s land art projects from the 1960s and 1970s were ephemeral and survive only through documentation: photographs,...
12. NO WALK, NO WORK!: Hamish Fulton
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Since the early 1970s Hamish Fulton has been alternatively considered a sculptor, a photographer, a conceptual artist, or a land artist. Fulton would more likely consider himself to be a “walking artist.” In the late 1960s Hamish Fulton first began to explore the landscape in a way that involved actually physically experiencing the landscape as part of the art. While a student at St....
13. THE SPIKE: Egil Martin Kurd
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Egil Martin Kurdøl is a Norwegian artist who has extensive experience as a mapmaker and hiker. He works in Russia as well as Scandinavia. For his project Feste/Attach (1998–99) he created and cast stainless steel bolts, attaching them to rocky surfaces in remote places. The configuration of the bolts resembled the actual landscape surrounds of the places the bolts were set down...
14. CULTURE NATURE CATALYST: Betty Beaumont
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Betty Beaumont’s underwater Ocean Landmark (1978–80) project, an interdisciplinary intervention, is a public art work that most people will never have the opportunity to see, as it is in the Atlantic Ocean. Created by a process of coal ash recycling off the coast of New York, it is a kind of public art that changes the world we live in by transforming the ecology of the fish habitats...
15. NATURAL/CULTURAL: Alan Sonfist
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Considered a pioneer of public art that celebrates our links to the land, to permaculture, Alan Sonfist is an artist who has sought to bridge the great gap between humanity and nature by making us aware of the ancient, historic, and contemporary nature, geology, landforms, and living species that are part of “living history.” With a reawakening of public awareness of environmental...
16. SHIP OF LIFE: Peter von Tiesenhausen
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In Demmitt, a sawmill ghost town in northern Alberta where he grew up, Peter von Tiesenhausen builds pods, ships, towers, and any number of woven willow forms on site in the landscape. Before becoming an artist he worked as a laborer, miner, roughneck, and cat driver in the Klondike, Antarctica, and the oil fields in northern Canada. He lives off the land through his art, which often...
17. EARTH IN CONTEXT: Reinhard Reitzenstein
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Born in Uelzen, Germany, in 1948, Reinhard Reitzenstein has long been preoccupied with the nature-culture dialogue in his artmaking and sculpture. I first met Reinhard at the first Art and Environment Symposium at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, in 1991. He pulled out a bag of stones after the talk, handing each member of the audience a stone in a symbolic gesture of...
18. EARTHBOUND MYSTERY: Ursula von Rydingsvard
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Born in 1942 in Deensen, Germany, Ursula von Rydingsvard builds cedar sculptures that range from small works, reminiscent of tools or domestic objects, to large-scale walls and environmental installations. Ursula von Rydingsvard’s heavily carved wooden sculptures are imbued with a strong sense of human identity and a memory of the land itself. The layering effect...
19. HEALING GARDEN: Mike MacDonald
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Mike MacDonald’s installations are direct evocative presentations in defense of nature. Best known for his video work, he also does photography, works on the worldwide web, and has been planting gardens that attract butterflies on the grounds of museums and galleries across North America. Quilt and video works have grown out of the garden projects. Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia,...
20. CHANCE & CHANGE: herman de vries
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herman de vries’ sense of a transcendent unity is both mystical and functional. Texts of Zen Buddhism and the Hindu verses of the Upanishads influenced his early artworks. In 1959 he made his first white painting. Typically this resulted more from de vries’ reading of philosophy and mysticism than the happenings of the artistic avant garde in Europe. Trained as a scientist, de vries continued...
21. THE HEART OF THE MATTER: Chris Drury
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Chris Drury has developed a unique and inimitable approach to working in the environment. Born in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and educated at Camberwell School of Art in London, Chris Drury has, over the past twenty years produced an incredible range of works. For his large scale sculptural integrations Drury builds two distinct structural forms: cairns or shelters. The choice of location...
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Page Count: 273
Illustrations: 80 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2004