Skip to content

Art Review


the landscape

When you think of landscape, you think of deserts or fields of grass; long empty spaces. Then there’s the interior, the inside of the head and the body: a larger, more complicated landscape than even the earth could provide. How do the two landscapes interact? For the artists in the new show at the Katherine Nash Gallery, Reimaging the Landscape, there is a working dialogue. The works here demonstrate a striving towards an understanding of the idea of place, the outer world, and the place of self in this outer world. Present in the works are elements related to the earth–rocks, grass, and dirt but also the objects of place–beds and boats. The works owe something to the minimalist period of the 1970s, where sculpture, but its shape and position in space, changed the way the landscape was seen. But here a different element is added, that of the personal; the body as landscape; the object as metaphor for the body. This especially true in the works of Jill Odegaard whose sculptures, using handmade paper and basket reed, are formed into pod shapes, resembling the womb, vagina, and testicles. More distinctly, a reflection of the body’s form found in nature but also ideas of gestation, of “nurturing and growth,” according to the artist. The sculptures evoke the parallel between the outer shell and the seeds that lie within, whether they be the “sexual seed” or the germination of ideas. “Underside” by Jean Humke, a large work consisting of pieces of sod nailed to the wall is a more abstract piece than the others. It seems to represent the larger landscape and also depicts the body’s skin. Yet how this is related to the question: “How do I inhabit myself?” from the artist’s statement, was unclear. The interesting aspect of this piece is tat it does alter depending on whether the artist waters the sod or not–a choice the artist makes. This reflects a parallel with human need to care for the self, to feed or to starve the soul. Robert Fischer’s “Lighthouse Boat Finding Its Own Way” seems as if it belong in a history of Norwegian fishing exhibit. Its re-creation of a boat covered by glass, depicts the body on a journey. With the boats ability to go inside, it reflects a desire to return to the womb; its construction–the male desire to build. The landscape exists only in its absence. One must imagine the water that will take the body to its destination. The full integration of place and the person was reflected in Mara Pelecis’s “Rock Beneath,” which used the familiar personal elements of the bed and photographs to demonstrate the fragility of the body and memory. A bed, familiar in white coverlet with blanket and knitted socks, sits on rusted springs on a wood floor. Imbedded in the floor are photographs depicting places obviously familiar to the artist but also familiar to the viewer: family, home, landscape and beneath the wood–rocks. Initially, the viewer may see the building of memories upon a landscape of history, of a coming from the land. But the bed is held up by springs–feeling of instability and change are evident. The photographs can also be lost or destroyed, and the plank, man-made, can also be obliterated. The rocks, or metaphorically the earth, are the only stable element. Also evident is the artist’s respect for the permanence of the land, a desire not to lose this essential part of the world. Taken as a whole, the works in the show successfully demonstrate the desire to move toward meaning between self and the world, whether it is a mutual understanding of existence or whether the greater environment provides the means to sustain an inner landscape. As seen in these pieces, the dialogue is worthwhile and ongoing.