A bouquet of nature-inspired art

When the going gets tough, the arts are usually one of the first things to go. Not by choice, of course. But in challenging moments, many assume that the arts are an extra, some frippery they can do without.

Yet it is precisely in these moments that we need culture. “The arts are essen-tial to any complete national life,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill told the Royal Academy on April 30, 1953. “The state owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them…Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

And President John F. Kennedy noted, “I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft.”

We may all wait a long time for that. Meanwhile, we’d like to offer a print tour of nature-inspired art, a bouquet as it were, to encourage, comfort and distract as you anticipate visiting museums and galleries — and perhaps collecting some of these pieces — in better days.

We begin with The Donald Gallery at South Presbyterian Church in Dobbs Ferry whose “Ten Artists Open Up at the Donald” was to feature artists who made a monetary donation to appear in the show and exhibit during the now-canceled
RiverArts Studio Tour. The exhibit, a fundraiser for gallery renovations, would’ve spotlighted a number of works that explore nature.

“Mary’s Flower Pot” by Linda Friedlander offers a cheery, light-dappled hint of wicker furnishings and lazy spring and summer afternoons on the patio. “Ventilated Tomatoes #1” by Carol Perron Sommerfield, who co-curated the show with Gina Bratter and Donna Thompson, makes you want to rip open the plastic and dive into the tomatoes’ juiciness, preferably on Friedlander’s patio.

The breadth of nature-inspired art is such that its styles encompass many periods. Nora Galland’s “Viburnum” is redolent of the botanical illustrations of Pierre-Joseph Redouté that Marie Antoinette and Empress Joséphine alike favored. Thompson’s “By Bird’s Light” offers viewers a modern take on the panoramic Hudson River School of 19th-century landscape painting, complete with a cheeky skirt and a pair of shoes left near a park bench, suggesting a dip by water’s edge. Marie Bourdain’s “Nap on the Hudson” is a humorous abstraction of a resting female figure with her straw hat over her face, although it will take you a moment to find her. For more, visit southpres.org/donaldgallery.

When we think of floral art, we tend to think in two dimensions. The Clay Art Center in Port Chester never does. The center was scheduled to show the still life centerpieces of ceramic artist Anat Shiftan this month, but “Anat Shiftan: The Garden” has been rescheduled for later in the year. In the meantime, we can savor the pristine beauty of her work, which the center says, “asks the viewer to question the legacy of nature, the botanical and our material culture.” For more, visit clayartcenter.org.

David Licata offered an abstract, three-dimensional take on nature in his recent “Fragile Nature, River Studies in Glass” at Kenise Barnes Fine Art in Larchmont. Licata, an art educator who has taught at the Bedford and Scarsdale high schools, is also a weaver of glass, twisting and torching rods of it to create sculptures that are attached to walls or suspended from ceilings like so many shimmering necklaces. It’s an alchemical effect, seemingly turning glass into metal. His show was accompanied by an exhibit of lush, evocative landscapes by Thomas Sarrantonio and Amy Talluto, both of Ulster County, that captured the idea of nature returning to life.

Future exhibits at Kenise Barnes Fine Art play with nature as well. Slated for the gallery’s Kent location in June, “Iris Blue Each Spring” will feature abstract paintings by Canadian artist Janna Watson as well as sculptures by Denver’s Julie Maren, including painted acorn caps from her “Biophilia” series.

At the Larchmont location in June, KBFA plans to offer “The Philosophy of Tea — Melanie Parke,” showcasing the Michigan artist’s take on tea, cut flowers and garden vistas beyond.

And couldn’t we all use some tea and sympathy about now?

For more, visit kbfa.com.

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