After the Storm… Dear Mother Nature at the Dorsky Museum

by Donatella de Rosa

There are many reasons to venture out this weekend — just getting out after the horrific and destructive winds of Hurricane Sandy, [a storm that may be a glimpse of the dire changes in our weather patterns] will be liberating. One very good reason is that Sunday marks the closing of the impressive exhibit at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz, Dear Mother Nature. How appropriate after this destructive event, to take time to honor Mother Nature.

"Dear Mother Nature", Dorsky Museum

Dear Mother Nature”, Dorsky Museum

Although we have published several articles covering this unique exhibit, I realize now as the last weekend approaches, that much more can be said about the scope of these portentous works of art. I cannot begin to speak to everything that was interesting about this exhibit; every piece was arresting, some haunting, some clever, all were unusual. Each artist had his/​her own vision of what a message to Mother Nature should say or could be. Some are indelibly imprinted on my mind.

Upon entering the gallery you see an array of installations, but the first thing that literally grabbed my eye — I’m told it was a favorite among the students and visitors alike — was a startling flutter of cascading origami cranes interspersed with black handled scissors that seemed to pour out from somewhere high in the recesses of the gallery’s ceiling, Claire Lambe’s Rock-​​Paper-​​Scissors.

Claire Lambe, "Rock-Paper-Scissors"

Claire Lambe, “Rock-​​Paper-​​Scissors”

Claire Lambe

Claire Lambe demonstrates the Japanese art of paper folding

Each artist was asked to write a “note” to Mother Nature to accompany their piece.

The installation plays on the Japanese “Legend of the Crane” where if one folds a thousand origami cranes, one creates the circumstances for a wish to be granted. The cranes have been added to the artwork over the period of the exhibition with the intention that, by the end, there will be the requisite number for the wish to be granted – The egg rests on a plinth that is 5.5 feet high by three inches diameter. The third element in the composition is the scissors which also have a bird-​​like quality but add a disquieting aspect to what would otherwise be a benign design.


One person’s wish can be another person’s nightmare, the Israeli/​Palestinian conflict is a good example as are the fears of the opposing sides of this election — at a phone bank that I recently took part in for Obama, one caller got the response of someone calling Obama the devil. And of course the even more local issue of Fracking where some landowners see it as a route to economic solvency while others of us see it as the route to the desertification of our area — those farmers might say, for instance, that Mother Nature has given them this natural resource on their land and it is a gift to them while the rest of us refute that. So, one way to consider the role of the scissors is in the light of wishes often having a sharp edge wrapped into their DNA.

The cranes and scissors are in opposition to each other and, although the scissors seem to be predators, it is ambiguous as to whether the egg is the property of the cranes or the scissors. The title references not only the materials that comprise the installation but also the game of chance that is life, and posterity. —Claire Lambe


View of gallery with Jim Holls "Low Lying Clouds" in the foreground.

View of gallery with Jim Holls “Low Lying Clouds” in the foreground.

Jim Holl, detail, "Low Lying Clouds"

Jim Holl, detail, “Low Lying Clouds”

Jim Holl’s installation, Low Lying Clouds challenges our perceptions and asks the eternal questions…

I offer you a sampling of the quandaries that humans have been contemplating since ancient times, and that we have not yet solved. Are we big or are we small? Is that a forest beneath my feet or just a bed of moss? If there appears no horizon, are the clouds high or low?… —Jim Holl


Christy Rupp’s oversized microscopic creatures demonstrate natures’ diversity and ingenuity. Her capacity for self-​​healing…

Christy Rupp, detail, "Microscopic Filter Feeders, Residing in Gulf of Mexico"

Christy Rupp, detail, “Microscopic Filter Feeders, Residing in Gulf of Mexico”

Christy Rupp, "Microscopic Filter Feeders, Residing in Gulf of Mexico"

Christy Rupp, “Microscopic Filter Feeders, Residing in Gulf of Mexico”

I offer you evidence that artists not only admire your observable assets, we also recognize the teeming world of invisible micro-​​organisms that you have created to nourish and sustain the Earth… —Christy Rupp


And Ilse Schreiber-​​Noll apologizes as she admonishes us for our recklessness and lack of reverence for the earth we’ve been entrusted with…

Ilse Schreiber-Noll, "Oil Spill Book III"

Ilse Schreiber-​​Noll, “Oil Spill Book III

I give you this book to express my commitment and promise that I am no longer going to take you for granted. With my work “Oil Spill” I offer my deep apologies to you for what we are doing and what we have done… — Ilse Schreiber-​​Noll


Ilse Schreiber-Noll, "Oil Spill Book III"

Ilse Schreiber-​​Noll, “Oil Spill Book III

These are just a sampling of the depth and diversity of the artists represented in the exhibit. Forty-​​two artists participated. All of the work was created specifically for this exhibit and one wonders how they will fare in a different venue. Dear Mother Nature ends on Sunday November 6. If you’ve already been to the gallery, you might want to go back one last time. I returned several times myself and each time discovered something I either hadn’t seen, or hadn’t fully comprehended. If you haven’t been to this exhibit, it is an absolute must see.


Barbara Bash, detail "Found" and "Garden Networks"

Barbara Bash, detail “Found” and “Garden Networks”


Dear Mother Nature: Hudson Valley Artists 2012
Curated by Linda Weintraub

June 23 — November 4, 2012
Alice and Horace Chandler and North Galleries


Wednesday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

State University of New York at New Paltz
1 Hawk Drive, New Paltz, NY 12561

All photography by the author.

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