Mimicking nature

Artists Monica Furmanski and Janet Neuwalder are integrating their shared love of nature into abstract projects they are creating together.

Furmanski specializes in digital photography while Neuwalder works in ceramics and they are combined in two installations in the group show “Selected Curiosities” opening today at the Brand Library Art Galleries.

Friends since 1993, this is the first time they’ve explored blending their works.

In the “Stream of Contradiction” installation, the two media have been integrated into one large installation piece on one wall of the Brand gallery.

It’s a mix of different sizes of square tiles and photographs with mirroring images and colors.

Furmanski has taken a photographic image of a tree and has manipulated it digitally, she said.

Neuwalder has translated the same images onto ceramic tiles and worked with different glazes to mimic the tree branches in the digital photographic images, Furmanski said.

“I just like to give the viewer hints and just enough information in the imagery so that they can start to create their own conclusions and to fill in the rest using their imagination,” Furmanski said.

The use of a tree and branches is symbolic with the fact that one idea leads to another, she added.

Furmanski uses nature in her work because it’s a common element, she said.

“It’s found all around us,” she said. “It’s easily accessible.”

The title, “Stream of Contradiction,” refers to the opposite nature of clay and computer art, Neuwalder said.

“Clay is solid, heavy and practically indestructible while digital images can appear and disappear at the click of a button,” she said. “The permanence of the clay and the impermanence of the digital images are woven together to create a concrete image for the viewers to ponder.”

Their second installation is called “Sin Titulo” which is Spanish for “untitled.”

It is a image of a chandelier that Furmanski photographed while visiting Havana, Cuba, she said.

The chandelier has been digitally distorted and looks out of focus.

Furmanski wanted to depict Cuba, how despite the sites of the city that show wear, the country continues to endure, she said.

“I’m very interested in how my work has subtle hints of imagery,” she said. “To me, this photo is a reminder of that moment and the photograph itself evokes a memory for me and hopefully it will evoke some type of emotion in the viewer.”

Neuwalder has added a sculptural frame around the image using ceramic pieces that look like peel bark, twisted leaves and blooming flowers, she said. Each are hand built.

“The frame creates a feeling of growth and possibility, while the image is ghost like — its past opulence vanishing.”

The two media together gives the view something unexpected, said Cathy Billings, gallery manager.

“The combination of photography and ceramics is unusual and the way they work so well together is unexpected,” she said. “The collaborative pieces are truly unique and when you look at them you can imagine the challenges and fun they must have had making the work.”

Other artists in the show are Michael Pearce and Jennifer Tenace. Pearce is showing his installation “Mr. Pearce’s Cabinet of Alchemical Wonders” for the first time. It depicts his interest in alchemy, the base elements of air, water, fire and earth, and humankind’s longing to understand the phenomenon of the universe, Billings said. Tenace uses oil, acrylic and mixed media on panel to create abstract landscapes.

All the work in the show really lives up to the name “Selected Curiosities,” Billings said.

“With all the different pieces on display, made from things as varied as wax, sea horse skeletons, paint, plaster and clay, there is just so much to see and to wonder about,” she said. “The exhibition is guaranteed to pique your curiosity.”

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