‘Bio art’ on display in Anderson Ranch Arts Center exhibition | AspenTimes.com

‘Bio art’ on display in Anderson Ranch Arts Center exhibition

"A Forest is Not a Tree" opened on Aug. 15 at the Patton-Malott Gallery at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass Village.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: ‘A Tree is Not a Forest,’ presented by Anderson Ranch Arts Center

Where: Patton-Malott Gallery, Anderson Ranch, Snowmass Village

When: Through Sept. 15

How much: Free

More info: http://www.andersonranch.org

Art and science are colliding and collaborating in a new exhibition at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s Patton-Malott Gallery.

The six-artist group show “A Tree is Not a Forest” opened last week, with an overflowing crowd packing the gallery for a reception. It showcases mostly new pieces in the emerging field of “bio art,” in which artists work with living material and natural objects.

“All of the artists in this show, their aesthetics are driven by science,” said Jody Guralnick, the local artist who curated and contributed work to the show. “We aren’t scientists and we’re not trying to be. But we all use science as a tool in what we do.”

Guralnick conceived of this show during a six-week artist’s residency last year at a biology lab at the School of Visual Arts in New York. There, artists from varied disciplines work alongside scientists on both practical and art-for-art’s-sake projects. During her time there, Guralnick worked with a live slime mold — she’s included six photographs of the slime mutating in a body-shaped shell at the Anderson Ranch show.

She’s also filled what she dubbed a “Learning Table” with objects she’s found in and around the forests of Aspen — discarded dolls and trash, pine cones, twigs and leaves — all coated in porcelain and wax, preserved as art objects.

The field of “bio art” is a relatively new but thriving form. Anderson Ranch’s leaders are hoping this show, on view through Sept. 15, will instigate conversation about environmental and conservation issues.

“It’s an opportunity for places like Anderson Ranch to open up this dialogue in a timely way,” Ranch director of programs Andrea Wallace said.

Added Guralnick: “It’s an art form that takes part in an incredibly important dialogue and addresses the environment.”

Catherine Chalmers contributed her fascinating “Leafcutters” video to the show. It’s the result of her embedding with leafcutter ants on the forest floor in Costa Rica, studying the intricacies of a community of 8 million ants. In the video, we see the ants carrying countless bits of leaf to their complex underground society and engaging in some surprisingly humanlike behaviors.

“They do things that we tend to think are unique to us,” Chalmers said. “Language, ritual, art. So I work with the ants. And basically they are my collaborators.”

Artist Suzanne Anker has filled a table at the center of the gallery with 3D-printed images of landscapes that aren’t accessible by humans — they’ve been photographed by drones and satellite — that have been placed in petri dishes.

Pamela Longobardi seeks to expose what she’s dubbed “Crimes of Plastic.”

She has photographs of pieces of plastic found on remote beaches in Greece and elsewhere. Each is tagged like criminal evidence. They’re a stark reminder of not only the tons of plastic floating around our oceans but also of the fact that none of it will go away for thousands of years. Longobardi has called plastic “the fossils of the future.”

The most famous artist in the show is painter Fred Tomaselli who is having a bit of fun with the viewer in two mixed-media pieces. Tomaselli has made an international name for himself by working with unorthodox materials. Anderson Ranch has included two works from the 1990s that incorporate living things.

Tomaselli’s “Hornet’s Nest” gives us a literal nest, its combs filled with red and white pharmaceutical pills instead of wasps. And his “Brain with Flowers” affixes an array of epoxied flowers — including marijuana leaves — on a wood panel.

“Each of the artists in this show had a sense of partnership,” Guralnick said. “When you work with these kinds of materials, you don’t feel like you’re working alone.”


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