Art Gallery’s “Cultivated Space” Explores the Human to Nature Connection

Pictured from left to right: Mi-Kyoung Lee, Anonda Bell, Fritz Dietel, Michelle Marcuse, Darla Jackson, Steven Donagen, Linda Brenner, Rachel Eng, and Joanna Platt. / Photo via Mary Salvante

In an incredible display of creativity, talent and passion, twelve artists contributed works surrounding the theme of land to create Rowan Art Gallery’s newest exhibit, “Cultivated Space.”

The exhibition was co-curated by local artist Syd Carpenter, local curator Marsha Moss, and Rowan Art Gallery curator Mary Salvante. It featured the works of Mi-Kyoung Lee, Anonda Bell, Fritz Dietel, Michelle Marcuse, Darla Jackson, Steven Donagen, Linda Brenner, Rachel Eng, Joanna Platt, Henry Bermudez, Martha Jackson Jarvis, and Sana Musasama.

The show was created in collaboration with Philadelphia Sculptors, a non-profit organization focused on bringing resources and attention to local artists. As “Cultivated Space” contains the talents of so many different artists, there are a variety of different works on display.

The materials used ranged from cut paper to woven cotton threads to zip ties. Each piece showcases the unique strengths of the individual artists and their contrasting approaches to the theme.

Exhibit titled “HAPPILY EVER AFTER (the ringing in your ears)” by Darla Jackson. / Staff writer Chelsea Valcourt

For one artist, the theme of land focused on the beauty of the spring season in “Intangible Spring.”

“[Spring] is an intangible thing… this thing that we take for granted,” said Steven Donegan, creator of the tapestry-like piece. “Here we are spinning on this rock in space and we’ve got all this and it’s so hard for people to appreciate it. I think that the work we do as artists is trying to maintain a connection to people so that they can reflect on the issues of how we belong to all of this.”

Mi-Kyoung Lee utilizes unusual materials such as twist ties and zip ties to create a naturalistic shape. It’s her way of commenting on the relationship between nature and consumerism heavily found within today’s society.

For Linda Brenner, the theme of land focuses on her connection to it through her eight tree-inspired art pieces, all of which utilize real trees that have come down within Philadelphia.

“Most of my work has to do with where the wood came from or what was happening when that tree came down,” Brenner said. “The loss of a tree is a very emotional thing for most people. I’ve had that experience… it creates an attachment to something that was important in your environment and then you have to experience that loss.”

Another piece includes a reimagining of the fairytale “Snow White” and the idea of what would happen if no true love came to break the spell. It features several woodland creatures looking on at the rabbit who remains trapped in her bed.

In “HAPPILY EVER AFTER (the ringing in your ears),” Darla Jackson focuses on the reality that no one is going to be there to magically save us and knowing when it’s okay to reach out for help.

The artists also shared their advice for aspiring creatives:

“It’s hard in the beginning… You just have to put that voice aside, which is easier to say than do, and look… work and look and show up,” said Michelle Marcuse, creator of the cardboard sculpture entitled “the remaining rumors live here.” “I will also say, be authentic, which is hard because the internet comes right into your house… If you’re looking at things make sure [whatever you make] is influenced by your own [vision].”

“Keep your curiosity. Always be curious about the world around you,” said Anonda Bell, creator of the mixed media wall piece entitled “Neither Shall You Touch It.” “Get used to rejection and don’t take it personally… and keep going. Don’t give up.”

“Keep doing what you’re doing. Just keep making your vision and just keep plugging away at it,” said Joanna Platt, creator of the cement and video display piece entitled “Eden.” “Sometimes it takes a long time… sometimes longer than you expect to really realize your vision and to be able to make what you want to make… just be patient with yourself… [and] remember that your art career is a long, long path.”

Works from these artists and more are pieces of the larger exhibit that have their own roles to play in examining the theme of land. Overall, the exhibit invokes a feeling of peacefulness and connection. This is the result of a successful attempt by the gallery’s curators to center this semester’s exhibition schedule on the tranquility nature provided during the pandemic.

The culmination of all the unique artists’ work coming together to examine the beauty of land and our connection to it is a display that is worth checking out. “Cultivated Space” will be on display at the 301 High Street Art Gallery until July 16.

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