Art Spiel Photo Story
Scaling Nature at the Bronx River Art Center features large-scale mixed-media installation works by three artists: Michele Brody, Linda Cunningham and Wildriana Paulino. Curated by Gail Nathan, the premise of this show is to represent nature as a force of nurture and destruction through the use of materials from the ephemeral to the concrete. Paulino and Brody both work with cast handmade paper that hangs from the gallery ceiling to command the space. Their massive artworks invite the viewer to be engulfed by a feeling of being one with nature and simultaneously wary of the effects of climate change.
Wildriana Paulino’s installation Maternity Figure/Figura materna from 2020-2022, utilizes materials of organic origins, reconnecting with the Earth as the mother of everything that surrounds us. Recognized as Pachamama by Andean indigenous communities, Ishtar by Mesopotamians, and Gaia by the Greeks, the ever-evolving connection between humans and earth presents a record of human life passages. Suspended from the gallery’s 12 foot ceiling to the floor, a 10’ diameter spiral holds hundreds of pieces of handmade paper containing hair, soil, and wool. Paulino’s work depends upon natural light to unveil “Mother” nature’s link to humans through its translucent screens.
The tornado-like force of Wildriana Paulino’s spiraling translucent objects, reminds us of the womb, of paths, and continuity. Maternity Figure presents its account of life passages as an anachronistic event. The layering of compositions in the spiral does not hold a specific order. Just like life itself, events happen simultaneously, and layer together to create a path that is ever-evolving. By walking through the narrow path of the spiral, the space between our bodies and the paper becomes intimate. We grow aware of the space our bodies occupy in the literal spiral of life, and thus we become entrapped in a close relationship with what we once were and will be again: earth. This piece comes to BRAC after recently being exhibited in the New York Latin American Art Triennial 2022, Governors Island, NYC.
Decandencia/Decadence, another piece by Paulino, is a 30 foot long row composed of 50 cast bronze female figures at 5” each, running along the baseboard of the exhibition wall. Produced in 2020, this piece memorializes the victims of Femicide in Paulino’s home country of the Dominican Republic.
The vast whirlwinds of hurricanes expressed by Linda Cunningham’s immense oil painting The Force from 2020 is also large scale. The work responds to the extraordinary forces of nature—increasing frequency of hurricanes & tornadoes, and unknown cosmic phenomena such as black holes and comets.
Linda Cunningham’s other work in the show is a diptych titled Sculptural Transformations from 2010-2023. These vertical structures measure 9’6” by 26” by 24”, and are composed of 4” thick red pine structural beams and twisted steel I-Beams that were rescued as they headed to a dumpster. The red pine was almost logged out of existence, so is no longer available as a building material. Linda Cunningham’s sculptures of repurposed wood and steel rise up from the floor to highlight the futility of trying to protect ourselves from the inevitable entropy of nature.
In the center of the gallery Michele Brody’s new installation Nature in Absentia: A Lost Marshland is made of 9’3″ high by 8’9” diameter cyclorama of hanging double-sided handmade paper sheets depicting local Cattails (Typha latifolia) cast in relief with regenerated pulp made from non-native/invasive phragmites reeds (Phragmites australis). At first glance the exterior of Brody’s cyclorama seems to represent a well-lit healthy marshland. The viewer can walk around cascading sheets of paper, which sound like rain when rustled by passersby, entering a darkened interior revealing an environment in distress. The only Illumination is the sun and gallery lights filtering through the sheets of paper. The once solid surface now glows eerily.
In the center a video floor projection features mass migrations of animals, plants, goods and people over bodies of water. The installation highlights the loss of natural biodiversity due to globalization and climate change in contrast to the world’s racial and cultural diversity spurred on by these human developments. A Lost Marshland is part of a larger series titled Nature in Absentia’ that developed during the Pandemic so it also addresses the emotional sense of loss during these times. Ironically, during the Lockdown, Nature had a chance to flourish without human intervention.
An interesting component of the show is the inclusion of studies for the monumental works that show, in more intimate terms, how an idea for a larger work can evolve from sketching intuitively through a stream of consciousness.
Curated by Gail Nathan
Artists: Michele Brody, Wildriana Paulino, Linda Cunningham
At the Bronx River Art Center, 1087 East Tremont Ave, The Bronx.
January 19 to March 4, 2023
Artist Talk: IN CONVERSATION Thursday, February 9th 5:30 – 7:00 pm
Closing Reception: Saturday, March 4th 5:00 – 7:00 pm