Artistic interpretations of nature |

Artistic interpretations of nature

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Courtesy of the artist"Natural History," oil, acrylic and mixed media, is part of Prescience, an exhibition of work by Aspenite Jody Guralnick. The exhibition opens with a reception Wednesday at the David Floria Gallery.

ASPEN – Aspenite Jody Guralnick has always been interested in using nature in her art – and not just the obvious stuff like mountains and rivers, but insects and cell structures. But when Guralnick’s dog got old, and their walks together took on a slower pace, Guralnick began taking a closer look at elements of nature – wasp nests in particular but also seed pods and pine cones – that she had started to overlook.

“Once you notice something, you can really see it,” she said.

Prescience, an exhibition of new works that opens with a reception Wednesday at the David Floria Gallery, has Guralnick using nature, mimicking nature, interpreting nature and letting nature take its course.

There are paintings of mountains and birds, images of an insect leg and a spiderweb. “Kitten,” a work in paint and mixed media, features a written list of things Guralnick likes. Branches, armadillo claws, whale vertebrae and lichen all make the list. Lichen itself is actually used as a prominent element in one piece, while another is made largely from a wasp nest, which Guralnick cut open, examined and concluded it was essentially paper.

“As I handled it, I realized that it’s all paper. They’re called paper wasps. They eat bark and leaves – that’s paper,” she said, adding that she reads a lot of science books. “I took it apart and saw it was so beautiful, I wanted to make something of it. I want to take all these natural objects and make them do something else, turn them into some other kind of material.”

The signature component of the exhibition, which runs through March 15, is not, on first glance, very natural. Most of the pieces feature blobs of acrylic paint. They are rubbery – very unnatural – to the touch. The origin of the blobs, though, was in Guralnick’s handling of pine cones and lichen, which she watched drip into whatever shape they wanted to become. Most of the acrylic blobs are affixed to the panels with tiny steel pins, suggesting a biology class.

“That’s how we treat the natural world – we pin them up for display,” she said.

And the forms come about more or less naturally, as Guralnick simply pours the paint and lets it take its own shape.

“What I’m really interested in is letting the paint do this flow,” she said. The blobs also are tied to artistic concerns. Only recently, Guralnick began making sculpture, which led to a desire to give her paintings more of a physical dimension. But she credits nature with teaching her how to create that physicality.

“I have these different kind of brush strokes, now, that I learned from pine cones in a weird way,” she said.

Probably the most unnatural use of nature is the plastic flowers that are attached to some of the pieces. But like the other elements, they are integrated into the work. Such harmony likely stems from the fact that Guralnick embraces nature in all its forms – even cheap, store-bought plastic representations of nature.

“I can be in a city and find the reiteration of nature in its plastic version – and I’m equally interested,” she said.