Outside: Unconventional Interpretations of Nature at 106 Gallery

This month 106 Gallery is hosting a group exhibition of artworks inspired by nature. Outside: Unconventional Interpretations of Nature, features art in a variety of mediums by eleven local artists: Sheryl Budnik, Dennis Grantz, Gloria Kirk-Hanna, Charles Allen LaRue, Thien Nguyen, Timothy Norris, Helene Smith, Mary Sundstrom, Filippo Tagliati, Maggie Bandstra, and Judith Tummino. While there are many contemporary artists who choose the landscape as their subject of choice, the objective of this exhibition is to showcase artworks that present nature in a manner that is unexpected due to technique, perspective, or tone.

The evocative potential of the natural world is profound, and though it may seem ubiquitous, nature hasn’t always been a primary subject in art. While there are examples as early as the 7th century CE in China, it isn’t until the 10th century that it becomes preeminent. In the western world nature became a primary subject matter in the 17th century, reaching an expressive apex with 19th century Romanticism.

Tummino, Nguyen and Budnik’s painterly abstractions suggest, rather than describe outdoor settings. Tummino’s Dreamscape, hints at Helen Frankenthaler’s landscape-inspired paintings, or Williem de Kooning’s non-objective works. Nguyen’s Forest, looks like a wintery variation of C├ęzanne’s late studies of Mont-Sainte Victoire. Budnik’s The Road Home, places the viewer in a vehicle, travelling a misty tree-lined highway. The serenity of Road Home, contrasts with Budnik’s Ice Fishing Among the Embers, with its menacing red embers floating into the violet night sky.

Sundstrom Spingtime

Mary Sundstrom, “Early Spring, Grand River”, oil on canvas.

LaRue, Sundstrom, and Bandstra, present the viewer with details from nature. A dappled backlit tree dominates the composition of LaRue’s Sylvan Screen. Bandstra’s Marigolds are as forcefully painted as still lifes by German Expressionists like Karl Schmidt Rottluff, and the wild flora in Sundstrom’s Early Spring, Grand River, pulsate with a mystic energy that is characteristic of her work.

Among the more abstracted submissions are those by Norris and Kirk-Hanna. Norris’ mixed media drawing evokes the magnitude of the night sky, while simultaneously suggesting the microcosm of soil. Hanna’s carefully layered webs of fabric and thread swirl in a manner that suggests the rapid flow of water in Hunter Creek, whereas the stacked horizontal composition of A Few of My Favorite…Colors, looks like a cross-section of the earth’s strata.

Filippo Tagliati Untitled

Filippo Tagliati, Untitled, archival inkjet print

Three very talented photographers are included in Outside. Although urban life is the favored subject of Smith, the natural world is ever-present. Cloud Tree is a photograph taken from indoors through a frosted window, which transforms the sunny little backyard into a magical setting. A totemic piece of driftwood appears suspended in the morning sky, which is reflected on the water’s surface in Grantz’ tranquil, Ancestral Drift. The sun’s reflection punctuates the composition of Tagliati’s contribution– a series of tiled drone images of the Thornapple River, arranged into a meandering configuration. The aerial perspective reminds the viewer the curious manner in which we often understand topography and place, through maps.

The public is invited to meet the artists at the opening reception Friday, February 7, from 6-9PM.

Admission to the reception and exhibition is free.
Outside: Unconventional Interpretations of Nature, on view at 106 Gallery through February 28.

106 Gallery
106 Division Avenue South
Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49503




Tamara Fox


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