In a society brazenly intertwining the roles of nature and industry, it follows that artists will find ways of representing this twisted, meshed version of life in their own ways. Pressure to turn a stern eye on things like carbon footprints and other environmentally unfriendly activities has led artists to examine the ways in which the world around us has changed.
At the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, on the campus of the University of Florida, examples of this movement are plenty. The most vocal representations of a homogenized planet come from Susan Beiner and Yang Yongliang. Susan Beiner’s Depleted II is a futuristic jumble of porcelain, kanthal wire, foam, and thread that mix to form a plant-like object reminiscent of the Jetsons. The artist describes it as a visual reminder of the “hybridization of everything” in her artist’s statement, taking aim to make the viewer feel “surrounded by a manufactured and engineered environment” – a feeling she argues is reality. Yongliang, currently featured as a highlight from the Asian Collection, feels similarly. His piece Viridescence, page 2 is a beautifully rendered mountain scene done in the traditional Asian style, deviating from it’s normal sense of escape from city life by imposing industrial structures lightly onto each range – symbolizing an inability to find a clear line between nature and the metropolis in this day and age.
The influence of a melding society also takes its toll on the artist himself. Pieces like Vince Palacios’ Frog and Rabbit Series: Frog in the New World, Len Prince’s Virginia, from series Jessie Mann: Self Possessed, Werner Drewes’ Composition after Botticelli, and Richard Heipp’s Germanic Guilt Symbols all mesh their original creative ideas with those of “masters”. Bombarded by a culture that produces popular reproductions of music and art, it seems second nature to sample well known art in the execution of one’s concepts – creating, in essence, a mix tape of imagery.
The merge of overwhelming concepts like nature and industry has helped form a universal melting pot. It has affected everything from how we view ourselves in the world down to the 21st century artist’s ability to employ ideas formed by others in order create something fresh and meaningful. This movement in art may not be especially new, but we are seeing this fusion of technique utilized with greater depth and delicacy than ever before.
To find out more about the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art and the current exhibits visit http://www.harn.ufl.edu/.