Intriguing new Gallery Project exhibit explores spirituality in nature
As is this gallery’s practice, 30 local, regional, and national artists have been invited to explore a theme that cuts across all sorts of artistic, philosophical, and cultural lines. In this instance, of course, the challenge is to illustrate each artist's view of nature’s “spirituality in contemporary life.”
What they’ve come up with doesn’t fill the customary bill of nature as unlimited spirit. Gallery Project’s never particularly concerned itself with convention, and it's apparent from this display that the gallery isn’t about to start now.
Rather, gallery directors Rocco DePietro and Gloria Pritschet’s exhibit statement touches on these themes, but their emphasis is a matter of challenging orthodoxy while recognizing its worth.
“There was a time in our early history when ‘nature’ had meaning far beyond dirt, embedded minerals, stones, and vegetation,” says the exhibition statement. “It was thought to have qualities that were uplifting, transcendent, even divine.
“Today, our primary goals seem to be controlling and exploiting nature, diminishing its significance in the spiritual realm. Yet even amidst this harnessed and constrained vision of nature, we sometimes acknowledge its grandeur and its capacity to hold ancient memories, and contribute to our physical and spiritual well-being.
“Each of us has special places we know where we have derived higher meaning through our experience there. These ‘thin places’ often describe environments where we feel uplifted and part of something bigger than ourselves. In this exhibit, artists have found ways to express that very highest form of appreciation of nature discovered in their travels, work, and play.”
Ann Arbor talents on display are DePietro and Pritschet, as well as Kyle Kramer, Kathryn Brackett Luchs, Michael Nagara, Michael Musick, Sharon Que, Mike Sivak, and Robin Wilt. The rest of the artists in “Nature as Spirit” come from across the state and the country.
Medicine Hand, Lenny Foster
By contrast, Pritschet’s “Vesica Piscis: Breath” is a color photographic tour de force whose tripartite view of the Taos, NM mountainside is both visually striking and compositionally complex. Precisely overlapping three distinct compositional planes, Pritschet’s three photos are a magnificent unified whole out of its parts. Keenly realized, the intersecting, overlapping mountains “Vesica Piscis: Breath” are nature as heightened, triptych spirit.
Among the other artworks in the display, Chicago’s Tim Lowly has added three digital prints whose drama incorporates what almost seems like a historic overview of both the print and photographic mediums. In particular, his “We Dreamt a Tree in Golden Light” has the virtues of the print coupled to what on a more intimate scale might have been a pinhole photograph. As is, his ghostly, golden-tinged tree (in front of a faint, background building) appears diaphanous with softened details and atmospheric blur competing in visual intensity.
Equally dramatic among the three-dimensional artworks is Michael Musick and Kyle Kramer’s “Sonic Space No. 2, Iteration No. 8” installation in the Gallery Project’s basement. The use of this basement is perhaps the Gallery Project’s most enduring contribution to Ann Arbor’s visual arts scene, and this installation is no exception.
“Sonic Space No. 2, Iteration No. 8” is eight pieces of irregular wood hung from the Gallery Project ceiling in a circular ring with speakers embedded; each speaker chattering incessantly and intermittently with what sounds like the electronically altered prattle of furry beasts.
Walking the installation’s perimeter—coupled with sound bouncing from speaker to speaker—creates a cacophony of sound and song that’s both natural and artificial as “Sonic Space No. 2, Iteration No. 8” drives home the point that nature comes in differing forms and spirit comes from where it’s derived. It is only left to us, as the audience and participant to link what is totem and what is mysterious as a unified one.
“Nature as Spirit” will continue through July 15 at Gallery Project, 215 S. Fourth Ave. Exhibit hours are noon-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 734-997-7012.