GALLERY ON QUEEN IS PROUD TO PRESENT "VERDANT"
Opening night: April 13th, 2018 5 pm-7 pm
From the erotic life of plants to the secret life of insects humans have long been intrigued by the natural world. Verdant implies rich vegetation, of green and growing things. Verdant can also signify emergent growth, still unripe, or tender, as suggested by the work of Beth Biggs, Linda Kelly, Sarah Maloney and Janice Wright Cheney who come together to celebrate spring. With themes of regeneration, transformation, and the strangeness of nature, each artist invites us to look closely at the natural form while simultaneously making us aware of its complex material, conceptual, or perceptual meaning.
Thaw’d are the snows; and now the lusty spring
Gives to each mead a neat enameling;
The palms put forth their gems, and every tree
Now swaggers in her leafy gallantry.
–Robert Herrick, “Farewell Frost, Or Welcome Spring”
The artist Beth Biggs uses the ancient methods of enameling, repoussé and chasing to craft bodily adornment that resonates both historically and conceptually. Her febrile creations explore the seductive nature of flowers and what she calls “the desire of femininity.” In Host (ess), a series of scent bottles, the flower is brought together in a symbiotic relationship with the insect. As the flower secretes nectar from its glands the butterfly, using its proboscis, sucks out the liquid and pollinates the flower. These glandular-shaped vessels evoke a sensual play of nature and culture that, according to Biggs, “is both magical and tragic” in the making of perfume. As the wearer delicately scents her skin with the glass, proboscis-like, stopper of the perfume bottle regeneration is performed. The sensuality of scent magically transforms and reenacts the flower’s life cycle.
Linda Kelly’s sensitive drawings and paintings of common weeds are inspired by the long history of amateur illustrators and professional botanists, such as Maria Sibylla Merian. Kelly’s intimate relationship with her natural environment directly inspires her art. This series is based on her close observation of the weeds that grow wild in her garden and the surrounding countryside. In the Devil’s Paintbrush, a mixed media piece, the weed is not only drawn accurately as a specimen, but as a living, breathing organism. Kelly speaks of her subject: “I admire the weed's tenacity and I find the forms beautiful, especially the root tendrils.” The artist subtly draws the nascent flowers held by green bracts, its slender stalks covered in gland-tipped hairs, and the larger basal leaves rendered in gestural washes of translucent green. In Kelly’s hands the meticulous recording of plant life, characteristic of botanical illustration, is surpassed by her energized line drawings that act as a life-giving force to her work.
In the work of Sarah Maloney and Janice Wright Cheney external elements, such as furniture or architectural forms, intercede with nature and create a dialogue of form with function. Maloney repurposes an antique table, its sinuous curves in conversation with the patinated bronze lily that seemingly sprouts from its polished wood-grained surface. As with Art Nouveau there is a powerful play between the artful and the natural in this work. The lily carries a litany of symbolic meanings associated with fertility, purity, the Virgin and the annunciation. Maloney represents the whole plant including its hairy roots and bulb, as she notes, in Renaissance paintings the whole flower is never shown. This uncanny representation of the lily embedded within the furniture recalls Columbian artist Doris Salcedo who claims “sculpture is its materiality”. Although their use of furniture as material differs their art shares the acuity of who, or what, is absent. This narrative potential further resonates in Maloney’s First Flowers (patinated bronze) a series of blossoming magnolias that announce the early arrival of spring. The sensuality of these emerging blossoms that seem to grow from the gallery walls is a conceptual play on nature and culture, further enhancing the perceptual strangeness of Maloney’s art.
The fungi-hugging columns of Wright Cheney are inspired by the story of a derelict spiral staircase found covered in sprouting mushrooms. Fera Moira is Greek for “Wild Fate” and represents the “rewilding” of nature. Wright Cheney is continually intrigued by how nature reclaims space and, like her vermin series, looks at the darker history of vegetation, the stories that get left in the dark. Using architectural elements such as reclaimed wooden columns, the artist fabricates each mushroom in silk, felt and natural dyes. This new body of work is informed by her extensive research on the persistent growth of fungi and the unseen underground network of mycelia that nourishes and sustains forest life. With Fera Moria Wright Cheney inherently echoes the notion of the forest as an integrated community, where flora, fungi, and fauna (including humans) can coexist. Despite the apparent fragility of our eco-systems, nature still exists and even thrives, as the artist observes: “In an era of ruin and despair, the fungi’s reclamation is ultimately hopeful.”
In these richly varied works by these four artists we enter into a magical, transformative world – a verdant garden of their fertile imaginings.
- Excerpts pulled from the exhibition statement written by Anne Koval. Koval is an independent curator, art historian and poet. The full text will be available on our website and in the gallery.
"VERDANT" will run from April 13th – 28th, 2018.
Aligned with the gallery's mandate to support local artists as their careers progress, we are excited to present this eclectic mix of works from these established NB artists.
Gallery On Queen is a modern space located in Fredericton’s historic downtown, one block away from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. It houses an ever-changing collection of contemporary Canadian fine art from across Canada with media that includes painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography and ceramics.
Barely two years old the gallery is already nationally known for its collection of Atlantic and Canadian works of art. One of New Brunswick’s leading art galleries, and most important cultural treasures, its mission is to bring art and community together in a dynamic cultural environment dedicated to the highest standards through its exhibitions.
Media Contact: Nadia Khoury
406 Queen Street, Fredericton, NB, E3B 1B6 firstname.lastname@example.org (506) 206-1904/ 261-0655