Second Nature: Artists Respond to Our Changing Environment, an ambitious, visually stunning show at the Goat Farm, features artists from seven American states and Merida in Mexico, with a fair number of nationally recognized artists. Organized by Barbara Archer at the invitation of the Nature Conservancy, it closes Saturday.
The vast web of nature, which conservationist John Muir described as the “thousand invisible cords” by which everything is bound to everything else, is a repeated theme in the exhibition, ranging from Dayna Thacker’s geometric linkages (the Muir quote is from Thacker’s artist’s statement) to the differently lovely geometry of Lauren Rosenthal’s book Political/Hydrological: A Watershed Remapping of the Contiguous United States.
That theme of a world in which every change in a part of nature results in a change somewhere else is reflected in a different sort of web or net, Pam Longobardi’s Consumption Web for Monaco (self-proclaiming material snare), a weaving of abandoned driftnet and plastic debris washed ashore from the ocean.
Waste, trash and the possible creative uses of it constitute another dominant theme. Los Angeles’ Dianna Cohen (whose work is also exhibited in Sandler Hudson Gallery’s One Word: Plastics through May 31) contributes a Funnel made of plastic bags and handles, and Jacqueline Bishop and Anne Cox both turn kitsch objects into meditations on nature and a culture run amuck.
Vanessa Vadim’s digital collages present a different take on the uncontrolled consumption habits of the epoch of human domination of the planet that has been called, as quoted in one of her titles, the Anthropocene.
There are ample representations of endangered species and ecosystems, from Tim Hunter’s Birds in Decline and Peggy Cyphers’ Iowa Prairie Conversations to New York’s Alexis Rockman, represented by a large watercolor of monarch butterflies rather than the more apocalyptic images of environmental dislocation that originally made his reputation. There are also allegorical fantasies featuring fantastic animals, such as Romy Aura Maloon’s artificial-flower-petal-covered creatures in Two Wild Dogs Stumble Upon the Ladies of the Flies, or Nikki Starz’ giant bird in Gonzo Was a Muppet, Too.
Ruth Stanford, however, gives us an installation in which the dominant theme is all the threatened wildlife we will never actually see, or even know beyond the lists in the documents of the federal Endangered Species Act.
There is much, much more, ranging from AnnieLaurie Erickson’s afterimage photographs of garish oil refinery lights to Pandra Williams’ outdoor experiment with nest-building mason bees and native clays. Goat Farm resident artist David Baerwalde’s outdoor installation of stacked filing cabinets containing flowering plants forms a brilliant transition between the gallery and Williams’ visually understated setup of clay, flowers and bees engaged in making use of both of them.
All of it well deserves the extensive explanation given in the artists’ wall text. But these paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations are so spectacularly lovely that they would need to be seen even without their thought-provoking messages.