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By Eric Weld   Date: 1/3/11 Bookmark and Share

Life, Loneliness and Nature Reflected in Students' Art

If some of the depictions of nature—and the human destruction of nature—in an exhibition of student art works on campus are interpreted as portending future scenarios, the outlook could be grim.

Black Widow (detail) by Man-Ting Chan ’11. View a photo gallery of "Plantinimis."

Images of death overlay picturesque landscapes. Trees of wire and circuit board take root and grow. Arms and fingers of corroded metal creep across the floor. Withered thorns and rotted branches populate stark, macabre woods.

“Plantinimis,” a collection of provocative and symbolic works by students in a senior visual art seminar, taught by Lee Burns, professor of art, ranges widely in media and materials. In addition to the nature themes, ingredients from nature—coffee, sticks, dirt and wood—are often used cleverly in the works, as if in attempt to preserve the very materials that they suggest are being threatened.

The exhibition is on display in Jannotta Gallery, Hillyer Hall, through February 2.

A binder containing the artists’ statements accompanies the exhibition and may provide some context for the works in the collection.

An enthralling graphite-on-paper triptych, Tension, by Man-Ting Chan ’11, compels the viewer closer even as its starkness and loneliness warn of danger. “My art plays upon the subtle darkness and beauty of human nature when it is stripped down to its most basic form,” she writes, “a narrative that is as surreal and equivocal as what it strives to define.”

Jasmina Chuck, whose sculpture The Future of Trees suggests a world in which nature has succumbed completely to technology, writes, “All of my art is an imitation of life. Yet as one reflects the world they change it.”

Many of the works in “Plantinimis,” as well as the artists’ statements, attempt to reflect upon the human condition.

“I strive to make art about universal, yet largely undiscussed or even mundane aspects of the human experience,” writes Anna Evensta Culver ’11, whose sculpture Hunger cries of desperation, a mass of papier-maché wraiths screaming into the maw. “Craft associated with domesticity or everyday life interests me greatly, as do expressions of loss, longing, or dissonance.”

Culver’s sculpture Spill, among the most intriguing works, suggests an involuntary expulsion, perhaps through birth—a piece that at once captures the frustration and purity of the life experience.

Not all the works in “Plantinimis” brush against dark or foreboding themes (though most do). Dormant, Buried, Seeds of (Human) Potential, also by Chuck, is a hopeful depiction of a woman sprouting to life, full of possibility.

The works in “Plantinimis” display the students’ ability to create art that pries beneath the skin and scrapes at the core of what we experience as life. Many of their works achieve a fundamental principle of art—to depict what we as humans are unequipped to utter.

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