"THAT feeling you get when you're in nature and you're very relaxed and you just feel very comfortable being out in the woods or on the beach," muses Emily Earl, describing a piece of artwork from the upcoming exhibition at Sulfur Studios, "Nurture//Nature."
Earl and her fellow Sulfur Studios proprietors, Jennifer Moss and Alexis Javier Perez, have curated an exhibition of 45 local and national works of art exploring nature and its connection to humanity.
“We were really looking for things that talked to the relationship of the individual or society or the built environment, in some way the relationship of the natural world and the human environment,” says Moss.
The diverse works—paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, collage, mixed media, prints, jewelry and video—were amassed through a call for entries, answered by 47 artists in 17 states. The final selection includes 28 artists, about half local and half from outside the Savannah area.
The prospectus was inspired by Moss noticing the prevalence of artist statements citing nature as either subject or impetus for creation.
“People are really inspired by nature, but when they say that, it means very different things to lots of different people,” Moss says.
Moss says, with “Nurture//Nature” “we can see what this cross section is.”
“We almost are putting together two exhibitions with the work that came in. There is a group of work that is all kind of bright and colorful. It’s a little bit more straightforward of a comment from several people and with an environmental theme on some of them,” Moss says.
These works will be displayed in the front lobby space at Sulfur Studios and accounts for about a quarter to a third of the works.
“A lot of the other work we got is a little more contemplative, a little more abstract. Seems a little bit more about the individual’s response to the natural world rather than them trying to make a statement that fits everyone,” says Moss.
Within these two bodies, the exhibition dissects reactions to nature. Artist Corey Houlihan makes a statement concerning GMOs with bold imagery of an earthen carrot turning into a syringe.
There are more ephemeral, reflective works like “The Taxonomy of Air,” where artist Susan D’Amato pins tiny rice paper drawings in large 5 foot by 5 foot grid. The pieces flutter in the breeze of human motion.
Local artist Veronica Cabrera offers a conceptual meditation on the built environment’s encroachment on the natural world, presenting a wasp’s nest merging into concrete.
“From the prints to the three dimensional work we had a sense of texture,” says Perez.
This texture showcases the structured chaos in nature and highlights the contrast and convergence of the natural and man-made.
Pittsburgh jewelry artist, Anya Weitzman plays with this contrast, designing her jewelry in geometric shapes using post-industrial materials like concrete alongside natural crystals.
There is tension throughout the pieces emanating from the play of the natural and artificial, which, as Moss articulates, is innate in works of this subject matter.
“Anytime you start to make art about nature, you’re making it artificial by taking it through your own creative process and displaying in whatever way you chose, whether its personal to you or you are trying to make a statement,” she says.
The openness of both the terms nurture and nature allow works to diverge and collide.
“There’s nature you can think of as Mother Nature and the environment, but there’s also the idea of my nature or the nature of an object, the word nature also meaning what is essential about something,” says Moss
An entrancing 5-minute video of an apple being disintegrated by a blowtorch created by Rachel Yurgovich focuses on human consumption and consumerism using historical allegories, but also questions the nature and purpose of objects.
Nurture refers to the human element present in the show but also outlines the exhibition’s larger intent, revealed in the title by flipping of the usual order, nature and nurture, to “Nurture//Nature.”
“By exploring all these things with nature we’re really nurturing the idea of what we can do to bring nature forward or pay attention to what we mean by nature,” says Moss.
The exhibition also nurtures Savannah’s art community, bringing in works from across the country that would have never reached audiences here otherwise. This gives life to the vision of Sulfur Studios, a space offering artist studios, as well as community and gallery space.
“Part of the goal and mission overall at Sulfur is trying to become this hub of creative activity for Savannah. We really want to be here for Savannah’s artists but we also want to try to bring the outside in,” says Moss.