The relationship between art and the natural world reaches back to the first marks made on cave walls. Depictions and abstractions of animals, plants, and landscapes are attempts at understanding the world around us. Since the 18th century, Romanticism has dominated our relationship with nature, teaching us that Nature is something separate from us, something we admire, save, or destroy. Timothy Morton, author of The Ecological Thought and Ecology Without Nature, suggests a new model in which we cease to view the natural world as something apart from us and argues a worldview that draws no distinction between humans and what we call nature. We are in a mesh of existence in which we are uncertain about where we are and what direction we should travel. Morton calls this view "Dark Ecology". The three artists included in Dark Ecologies offer differing perspectives that emphasize the enmeshed relationship between humans and the natural world.
Susan Harlan’s collection-based practice consists of searching for and finding fragments that are collated into what the artist calls a “library of small ideas, particles, [and] research.” These fragments - culled from the natural world – are assembled into multi-layered fused glass panels and sculptural, mixed-media books, revealing, “a new way of seeing landscape.”
Carolyn Hopkins’ installations combine “materials [and] imagery from culturally oppositional territories,” in order to create a hybrid space. Decorative history and the accoutrements of hunting culture are integrated. Hopkins, however, avoids the trophy imagery, depicting gory details that are often de-emphasized. Taxidermy forms, sheathed in fabric, are placed in aggressive and defeated positions. Camouflage embellishes rather than conceals and blood is transformed into strings of glass beads. For Hopkins, these juxtapositions are “outposts from which others may reinvestigate a formerly recognizable territory.”
Continuing the investigation that began with her recent solo exhibition, The Realm of Quantifiable Truths, Emily Nachison “explores the use of story and symbols to mythologize natural phenomena.” Drawing on a given material’s cultural significance and craft tradition, Nachison combines kiln-cast glass, metalworking, and fiber techniques to create new narratives from mythology, scientific history, and popular culture.