Show explores connections to natural world
“Biophilia: A Love Story” opens at The Confluence: Art in Twisp on Saturday (April 30), inviting gallery visitors to consider their own connections with the natural world as they observe the sculptures, paintings, jewelry, plants and other artwork featured in the exhibit.
With its Latin roots of “bio” (life) and “philia” (love), “biophilia” means “love of life.” It’s a term that gained attention when psychoanalyst Erich Fromm described it as “the passionate love of life and all that is alive” in 1973, and again a decade later when biologist Edward O. Wilson proposed that humans’ instinct to connect with the natural world is in part genetic.
Genetic or not, biophilia is a concept widely experienced, interpreted and celebrated through art.
Although the exhibit’s opening so close to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day may seem strategic, it’s sheer coincidence, said co-curator Janet Fagan. “About a year ago several of us on the show committee were saying the same thing in different ways. We wanted to take an introspective pause to consider our collective relationships and personal relationships to the environment,” she said.
“Biophilia: A Love Story” is opening at a time when most of us are hungry for signs of life, said co-curator Jennifer Molesworth. “We’re waking up from winter, the birds are returning, the flowers are starting to bloom,” she said. “We’re loving the time we’re starting to spend outside — the signs of life are all around us.”
Living in the Methow Valley, as opposed to an urban environment, said Fagan, “is so much easier when nature surrounds you.” It’s why so many of us chose this place, she said, “because of an innate appreciation for the natural environment. In an urban setting you have to work so much harder to find those pockets and places to appreciate the natural world.”
In contemporary society, Fagan said, there’s a tendency to lose touch with the natural world, so “it’s important to take time to pause, reflect, and connect with nature.”
Molesworth believes that those of us who live in rural places like the Methow Valley, surrounded by nature, are more able to “recognize how dependent we are on the natural world,” and hopes that one of the outcomes of the exhibit is that visitors experience their connections with nature from both sides: their enjoyment and appreciation of it, as well as their responsibility to it.
Tapping the positive
Fagan, who donates a portion of her sales to environmental and conservation non-profit organizations, said, “As an artist I think about this all the time. I have a broad view of my responsibility as an artist. In the big picture I’d like artists to be a counterweight of all the negativity in our world, whether it’s environmental, social, health-related, or political. There’s a plethora of bad news, unrest, and dis-ease. As artists, we have the ability to tap into positivity and joy and to share it with others.”
Fagan said that the artists who answered the call for “Biophilia: A Love Story,” “made the conscious choice to work joyfully in this show.” In their call for submissions, Fagan and Molesworth only specified that artists “consider their relationship to living beings and environs that support our natural world and visually depict the harmony or disruption of these connections” in their artwork.
“We tried to leave the call open-ended, to allow artists to place themselves in context,” Fagan said. “We hoped that artists would feel close nature and explore that closeness through their work. But we thought we might get submissions with a dystopian view of the natural world [given the climate change-related events of recent years]. We didn’t get any critical statements, though — only hopeful messages in the art.”
“My heart is really filled,” Fagan added. “It’s clear from the celebratory nature of this artwork that we are united by a deep love and closeness with our surroundings.”
Molesworth said she sees “a lot of reverence for the natural world and our place in it” in the pieces submitted by 36 different artists, including Seattle artist Lance Burke’s recycled materials art, Perri Howard’s new series, Sarah Jo Lightner’s living wall, jeweler Joanne Marracci’s wearable landscape art, and charcoal sketches by Victoria Weber, a young artist who grew up in the Methow Valley. Each co-curator will also exhibit one piece.
“By being aware of the beauty, connection, and joy around us all the time we can combat a lot of despair,” Molesworth said. “We can always pause to breathe and listen to the birds. As artists, our work has the power to remind people to open a door or a window, to inspire them to step outside.”
Concurrently, “Forest Dreams,” a collaborative exhibit, will show in the Community Gallery. Artists Janet Fagan and Chris Pope invite viewers to “step into the dreams of the forest” and examine their artwork, which “visually depicts the collective visions of all that the forest witnesses and imagines … from the literal to the fantastic.”
The Confluence will host an opening for “Biophilia: A Love Story” and “Forest Dreams” on Saturday from 5-7 p.m. The opening and the exhibits, available through June 11, are free to the public. The Confluence is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. For more information visit www.confluencegallery.org or call (509) 997-2787.