Friday, February 12, 2016

Evolution at W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory

Art, Science and Adaptation

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 11, 2016
“Beioneural” mixed media sculpture with moss and LED lights by Jennifer Robbins
Lisa Kinoshita curates art exhibits in fantastic venues and presents the work in such a manner that it blends in with, becomes a part of, and enhances what is already there. She did it beautifully at the Seaport Museum last summer and has now done it again at the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park. In an exhibition called Evolution: Art, Science and Adaptation, Kinoshita has brought together the works of 13 artists including works of mixed-media sculpture, video, and ceramics displayed among the hundreds of exotic plants in the conservatory. The art fits in so naturally and organically that viewers can easily miss some works. It is a smorgasbord of beautiful, unusual and unexpected shapes, colors and materials on the floor and in the air — all of which plays upon the theme of evolution, sometimes humorously and sometimes with scientific seriousness.
A trio of Claudia Riedner’s popular giant heads guard the entrance. They are like the Easter Island heads moved from a bare hillside to a lush tropical jungle, and can be seen as either welcoming or a warning. Enter at your own risk; you’ll be glad you did.
There are three unique sculptural works by Yuki Nakomura in the exhibition, the most intriguing of which is one called “Tree Map.” She traced the shapes of peeling bark on an allspice tree in the conservatory, painted them in solid tones of red, yellow and blue and with black and white stripes, and then put them back on the tree trunk. It is an artist’s playful interpretation of a possible evolutionary change to the tree.
Another playful interpretation of evolutionary change can be seen in Ed Kroupa’s “Cactopl,” an octopus-like creature hiding in rocks on the floor made out of sculpted foam, toothpicks and glass. With its big, blue glass eyes and tentacles partially buried in the rocks, it seems to be stalking prey.
 “Breaking Through” mixed-media sculpture by Don High. Photos by Lisa Kinoshita
Don High’s “Breaking Through” is a mixed-media sculptural tower of rocks with moss-covered tendrils sprouting fountain-like from the top. Like many of the sculptural pieces, it seems to be an organic part of the jungle of the conservatory.
Had Kinoshita not been there to point it out to me, I would not have seen Brent Watanabe’s mixed-media installation “Deposit.” There is a small table covered with a red checkerboard cloth. That part was easy to see, and seemed out of place. But then Kinoshita told me to look under the table. There I saw a video of a funny and kind of sad puppy projected onto clear vinyl sheets.
One of the most beautiful pieces in the show is Jennifer Robbins’ “Beioneural.” It is an organic sculpture of sticks, raindeer moss, succulents and LED lights. Sprouting from either end of a brilliant orange moss-covered stick with lights glowing from within are tree branches or bright red and purple. Verbal description does not do it justice. The beauty is breathtaking.
Another of the most fascinating installations is Sean Alexander and Paul Cavanaugh’s “Ant Farm.” It is, in fact, just what the title claims, an ant farm with living ants, hanging in air within sheets of glass. Inside the glass are complementary blue and orange substances that look like a three-dimensional Mark Rothko painting. The blue material is a gel substance developed by NASA for sending ants into space, and it functions as food, water source, and habitat.
There is so much more to see, and it is all intelligent, thought-provoking, often surprising, and quite lovely to look at.
 Evolution: Art, Science and Adaptation, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Third Thursday Art Walk, closing time is 7 p.m., $3 suggested donation, Seymour Botanical Conservatory, 316 G Street in Wright Park, Tacoma.

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