Natural Selections ☆
The first Art & Art Education exhibition of the semester, Natural Selections was on view from January 27th through February 14th in the Macy Art Gallery. New York painters Nate Sensel and Louise Brooks were invited by TC curator, Ashley Mask, to entwine their work in a way that would evoke the theme of the exhibition: how perseverance is maintained through permeability. Natural Selections features Nate’s series called “Knots,” in tandem with selections from Louise’s “Rock Homes” collection.
Louise Brooks was born in London, raised in New York City and, according to her biography, she “developed a love for rocks and trees during summers spent in Montana.” She studied painting at the Stacy Studio Workshop in Manhattan and has since been a resident artist at the Vermont Studio Center, the Contemporary Artists Center at Woodside and the Butte-Silver Bow Arts Foundation.
“Louise’s current painting process is based on working with abstract forms,” her biography states, “separating, merging, and layering them until they have gained some substance.” Yet in the pieces chosen for the exhibition, this painting process is taken a step further.
“In the Rock Homes series I’ve been experimenting with creating form through negation,” Louise describes. “I identify the most active convergence of a line, color, and shape in an abstract painting on paper, and covered the rest with a single color – sometimes opaquely, sometimes diaphanously.” Through this process a hole will appear as a projected subject against the background. “It is a window into the abstract, energetic underpinning of the painting, “ her artistic statement continues, “but at the same time claims its own space . . . like homes made out of rock.”
“I further examine the question of the permeable/impermeable natures of these rock homes by adding small, paper doors or windows, or drawing in recognizable objects like water towers or telephone lines.” In line with the theme for Natural Selections, Louise’s collage additions become “points of entry” to her pieces that simultaneously “recede and project forward,” evoking their permeable nature.
In many of Nate Sensel’s complementary installations, his paintings depict flowers in otherworldly colors that are tied in knots and fold in on themselves. “When I began this series in 2012,” Nate says, “I was drawn to plants growing out of cracks in sidewalks and buildings in NYC. Plants like dandelion and purslane astonished me because they seemed to be able to grow anywhere. . . . ready to take over any man-made but abandoned spot.” During several trips to tropical climes that year, he observed plant growth similar to that in the city. “These experiences led me to represent plants and flowers in other unnatural states,” he remarks “and soon I began tying stems from flowers bought at my nearby bodega into knots.”
“As I was painting these images, I was also looking at Dutch still life paintings from the late 1500’s, early 1600’s. Artists such as Balthasar Van der Ast were making images of tulips surrounded by other natural objects that were considered luxury items.” Nate says this era of painting inspired his Knots series because the still lives “were fantastic and special items painted for people who could not afford the real thing, however these artists didn’t just paint the items as they were. They often made the flowers into unrealistic bouquets, creating a final image that was better than or that transcended its original state.”
Each piece in his Knots series started as a simple pencil sketch which was then stylized. “The colors are riotous, highlighting the unnatural state,” Nate says of his choice of watercolor and acrylic paints. “Some of the works have materials such as tissue paper, spray paint and gold foil,” which enhance their permeable character.
In a comment about the predominately blank space behind his flower paintings, Nate says that “in most cases I’ve chosen to depict the flowers without a background (i.e. without an environment), leaving the viewer with only this unique and curious organism to consider.” Nate also named each piece in the series individually. “Each piece is titled in such a way as to make it the lead actor in its adaptation – ‘Hacker,’ ‘Wanderer,’ and ‘Strangler’ for example.” all names that emphasize their perseverance.
Nate has been an art educator himself since 1994 and is currently a student teaching supervisor for the City College of New York. He also holds positions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Arts and Design. Nate received a degree in Art Education from Kent State University.
“I feel that arts education is important for everyone,” Nate says, “in that it builds critical thinking skills, develops the ability to approach problems in creative ways, and adds to one’s verbal and visual literacy. Not only are these skills important in every day life, but also they help one appreciate the life around them.”
By Alyssa Foster
A&H Staff Writer
– More information about Nate Sensel’s work can be found here: www.nathansensel.com
– More information about Louise Brooks’s work can be found here: www.louisebrooksart.com