Experience Nature through Art

Experience Nature through Art
British artist Rebecca Louise Law’s “The Journey” exhibit includes 1.2 million flowers that she has collected, dried and preserved for more than 50 installations, in addition to the blooms provided by the Cummer.

From now through early January 2022, Jacksonville residents and visitors can experience nature as expressed by two artists – one local and one from Wales – in two local museums.

“Structure of Nature | Nature of Structure” is a retrospective of the work of photographer and installation artist Doug Eng, a native and current resident of Jacksonville. It can be viewed at MOCA Jacksonville through Jan. 2, 2022. Eng highlights the need to preserve Northeast Florida’s endangered wetlands and forests in works such as Streaming South, My Real Florida, Decoding the Infinite Forest, and The Forest re:Framed, as well as Eng’s most recent project, Drowned Forest of the Ocklawaha.

“This exhibit is especially meaningful to me because Jacksonville is my birthplace and home, and much of the work is indigenous to the area,” said Eng. “I start with several works of local Florida landscapes, followed by works that demonstrate how presentation and design can change the way we look at things. Finally, I highlight some of the environmental issues specific to the South that I became aware of.”

“I think we all need some relief from the mental anguish we experience every day, especially last year during the height of the pandemic and political turmoil. Escaping into nature and thinking about silence and beauty can be powerful healing forces. We also need to be aware of causes and situations that affect the environment,” he said.

Eng grew up in the Southside/San Jose area of Jacksonville, was a member of Sandalwood High School’s first graduating class and started his software company here. His photographic exploration took root as a self-described hobby. After selling his company to another company in Canada and working in Montreal for three years, he retired in 2008 and brought his wife, Dorian, back to Jacksonville.

He visited the Riverside Arts Market and met local photographer Bill Yates. Yates invited Eng to Southlight Gallery where he talked with gallery director Michael Dunlap, who invited him to exhibit during the May 2009 Downtown Art Walk. Eng developed Southlight’s website and helped them move locations. He became involved locally in exhibitions, awards, publications, affiliations and clients and moved his studio to the CoRK Arts District.

Eng’s recent projects focus on raising awareness of deforestation and the effects of climate change on the health of our forests.

Local photographer and installation artist Doug Eng
Local photographer and installation artist Doug Eng

“I try to reflect what I see without commentary, letting viewers decide for themselves what to think. Some images may feel depressing or full of despair, but I always seek to find the inner beauty of my subjects with optimism for the future.”

MOCA Jacksonville hours and admission information can be found at mocajacksonville.unf.edu.

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens offers the opportunity to view a site-specific installation using flowers and natural materials by British installation artist Rebecca Louise Law. The exhibit, named “The Journey,” is open to the public through Jan. 9, 2022. It incorporates 1.2 million flowers from Law’s previous installations around the world and required more than 1,200 community volunteer hours to install.

“In recent months, most have at times felt fragile, depleted and vulnerable,” said Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Ph.D., the Museum’s George W. and Kathleen I. Gibbs Director and CEO. “Law’s poetic installation, incorporating millions of delicate dried and fresh flowers that have been painstakingly linked together by hand, is an apt metaphor for our shared quest to emerge stronger and more resilient than ever.”

Law uses both dried and fresh flowers in her work to illuminate the time-bound and natural process of decay. Law’s “sculptures” are suspended from above and held together with copper wire.

“More than 50 installations have been hand-made and wired over nearly 20 years,” Law said. “Each installation is taken down, boxed and preserved. I’ve never thrown anything away.”

As its commitment to the project, the museum provided 10,000 additional live blooms that volunteers wired by hand onto copper wires. The volunteer effort began in mid-July, with 25-30 volunteers per day working together for 10 days in stringing together garlands of flowers.

Mary Watson has volunteered for the Cummer, primarily in its gardens and for garden-related events, for 25 years. In 2020, as a member of the Cummer Garden Committee, she was asked to find a source for the 10,000 stems of blooming flowers that Law would need to create her exhibit. 

“Kuhn Flowers was a superb source,” Watson said. She enlisted others to wire the flowers cut from these stems. 

“I love the energy, people and direction the museum is taking to be all-inclusive,” said volunteer John Hurtubise, who lives in Riverside. “I worked seven days wiring several types of blooms. It was fun opportunity to reconnect with friends, meet new ones and be part of creating a one-of-a-kind piece of art.”

Jacksonville Arts & Music School’s visual art students also contributed to the making of Rebecca Louise Law’s, site-specific installation. The students thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to engage with the artist’s process, using natural elements as art materials with a collective response of “This is pretty cool!” according to Erin Kendrick, their visual arts creative leader.

“This allowed my students to think outside of the box and reconsider what it means to be an artist and how broad art-making can be,” she said.

Through Sept. 3, visitors can experience Law’s “The Journey,” with free admission during the “Summer at the Cummer” event series presented by PNC Bank, 4-9 p.m., each Friday. The experience includes live music, art experiences, lawn games and more. Hours and admission, including other opportunities for free admission, are found at www.cummermuseum.org.

By Karen Rieley
Resident Community News

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