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Student Art Showcases Connection to Natural World


Students worked collaboratively to collect goldenrod that they turned into site-specific art pieces outdoors.

A student exhibition inspired by the natural world is on display in Williams Gallery at Delaplaine Fine Arts Center through December 9. Viewers can admire the patterns and poetic details in unconventional materials including horsehair, cicada shells, flowers, berries, seeds, sticks, stones, pods, moss and leaves.

well-earthworks.jpg“The Earthworks exhibition is the culmination of my Environmental Art students’ creative endeavors in which they explored the creative possibilities of natural materials,” said Professor of Art Elizabeth Holtry, M.F.A.

Fine art major Natalie Meador, C’21, displayed multiple pieces. One includes strands of ornamental blackberry lily flowers tied to thread and hung from the ceiling at various lengths. The flowers, dried to a pale camel color, twirl and glide in weathered fragility. Viewers can enjoy a second performance as silhouetted shadows dance on the wall.

“I think the Earthworks exhibition is unique from previous shows, not only in the materials that were used, but in the way we all worked together as a class to make these pieces,” Meador said. “I see the beauty of nature, but I also feel a strong sense of community because we spent so much time as a group collecting the materials and making these works.”

She collaborated with fine art majors Katherine Creamer, C’21, and Jacqueline Ramos-Izquierdo, C’21, on a piece that included leaves stacked on horizontally hung sticks. Meador and Ramos-Izquierdo created another piece using pampas grass and stones. The mound of stones can be viewed as a wishing well or tiny altar cradled by soft tufts of angel-haired pampas grass woven in the liminal spaces.

“This class expanded my creativity as well as my appreciation for the natural world around me,” Ramos-Izquierdo said.

circle-of-life-earthworks.jpg“I’ve been a part of a few art shows,” Creamer said. “But this one was one of my absolute favorites. We were able to bring to life the beauty of nature in a completely different way. We collected things that most people wouldn’t have noticed in their daily lives and shed light on the beauty of all types of nature—whether it was brown and dull sticks, acorns, rocks or colorful leaves and berries. We transformed them into forms that revealed the magic of nature.”

Most of the materials for the exhibition were collected on the Mount’s campus. Holtry, an avid equestrian, provided hairs she’d plucked from a horse’s tail and mane. English major and creative writing minor Alba Sarria, C’21, used those black, white and gray strands in her piece and wound them into tendrils and circles that climbed up the wall. 

cicadas-earthworks.jpgFreshman Emily Lewis, C’23, created three works of art—two were displayed next to one another. She collected 22 cicada exoskeletons and added a single rose and green colored hydrangea floret atop each shell.   The whimsical piece is arranged in a figure eight, giving it movement and visual interest. Viewers can look closely at the precise outlines of the tiny appendages, eyes clypeus—simultaneously observing a curious preservation of what’s there and what’s missing. Lewis’ other piece is composed of granulated leaves of every color. Arranged in an oval, viewers can see an ombre effect—a subtly gorgeous microcosm of the seasons.

“I found this an amazing exhibit that showcases the talent of our students and the exceptional beauty of the Mount,” said Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Peter Dorsey, Ph.D. “I was mesmerized.”

The nine students also created site-specific pieces outdoors. Holtry assures Earthworks is meant to be ephemeral and the detritus will be placed back in nature after the exhibition. The Environmental Art class is intended to promote environmental awareness and highlight simple, poetic forms while fostering a sense of community and collaboration. In addition to creating artwork, the students learned how to plan and install a cohesive and professional exhibition.

Holtry believes the artworks beckon viewers to look upon the natural world—in all its enthralling and quizzical detail—with reverence and wonder. “The class has been a joy and privilege to teach and the students have grown in their artistic purview,” Holtry added. “I’m proud of them!”

Williams Gallery is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.