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Review: 'The New Naturalists' at Herron

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Amy Stein, "Trash Eaters"
  • Amy Stein, "Trash Eaters"

The New Naturalists: contemporary artists in the realm of natural history presents art from artists "deeply interested in places where nature and culture meet” and posits that contemporary artists have become the new naturalists, according to a press release. This is a strange idea, but the exhibition backs up its claims by presenting a diverse array of interesting artwork that engages the natural world and fosters reflection. Most of the art in this exhibition is of the variety that feels impenetrable until you read all of the label text, at which point it not only makes sense, but feels highly insightful and relevant.

A few artists stand out. The way James Balog composes his photo montages with overlayed small printed images that combine to create large-scale images is a well-established technique, but his depictions of giant trees are unique. The image is created by scaling the tree, giving the viewer a total view rather than the neck craning, ground-up image of a tree one is accustomed to.

Other highlights include Sam Easterson’s “Animal Vegetable Video,” which provides a twist on the human love of watching videos of animals in their natural habitats: This time, the sheep is wearing the camera and we see the world more or less as the animal does.

Amy Stein’s photographs are staged recreations of stories from a town that borders on state forests, parks and game lands where intersections between the “wild” and the “civilized” are as common as they are jarring. At Herron School of Art + Design, Robert B. Berkshire, Dorit & Gerald Paul, and Eleanor Prest Reese Galleries through Feb. 16.

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