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Columns : Art Life - Susan Mackay Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Environmental Art
By Susan Mackay
Aug 8, 2006 - 10:59:24 AM

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Art has expanded and exploded out of its traditional confines. Performance Art, Land Art, Conceptual art, Environmental Art and Public Art have all pushed, not only the way we understand art, but where it is displayed. It seems only correct that ART (a discipline whose very reputation is to push boundaries) continues to do that - literally!

According to www.greenmuseum.org, an online art site, Environmental Art is.....

"In a general sense, it is art that helps improve our relationship with the natural world. There is no definition set in stone. This living worldwide movement is growing and changing as you read this. Much environmental art is ephemeral, designed for a particular place (site-specific) and involves collaborations between artists and others such as scientists, educators and community groups".

"Funky Nassau" , an exhibition by Bahamian Artists in Wiesbaden, Germany, although ostensibly about what it means to be Bahamian, becomes an interesting example of the flux between gallery and the environment. For example, sculptor Antonius Roberts recreates the environmental art piece "Sacred Space" , the original piece in Nassau overlooks the ocean, set up on cliffs. Trees, originally marked to be destroyed, are transformed to female form by his art and now cast their eyes seaward in an ever constant gaze. Addressing issues of migration and slavery, there is also poetic pathos in his use of living trees, still rooted in the earth. By transforming such a common natural element as a tree into living sculptures of women, he quietly reminds us of the environment and our careless destruction of it.

By re-creating this piece in Wiesbaden, embedding the sculptures in Bahamian sand on top of the German soil, the artist highlights the juxtaposition of the different cultural and physical landscapes.

Also for "Funky Nassau", artist Blue Curry, tackles similar issues and cultural identity. This time the gallery is the frame BUT with a difference. "Like Taking Sand to the Beach" 2006, is a conceptual piece, where the artist removed a section of beach from the Bahamas and painstakingly transferred it bag-by-numbered-bag, to the gallery in Germany. The sand now on the floor in the gallery space is in something more than a replica of our very own Margaritavilla Sand Bar, by the juxtaposition of sand in the unfamiliar and hard environment of a city in Germany it becomes imbued with meaning. To the artist, the beach represents his Bahamian home and paradise, but maybe the audience remembered times at the beach. Maybe they thought about what it means to be from any particular land, the sand being so eminently Bahamian? What is it after all - but molecules, sand that could possibly be German? By filling the gallery space with an elemental form of nature the artist highlights the vast potency of the environment and its importance.

Back in Nassau, he has covered the spot where he removed the sand with a tarpaulin that reads. "THIS SECTION OF BEACH TEMPORARILY ON LOAN FOR INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION. APOLOGIES FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE CAUSED." Blue Curry shows us, both in the environment and in the gallery, a beautiful respect for nature; venerating something as innocuous, yet powerful AND important, especially to The Bahamas, the sand. At the end of the show in Germany, Curry returns the sand, taking it "home".

(In a future article, I will talk more about the art created for "Funky Nassau" - all the work being exciting, innovative and Bahamian.)

Art is no longer confined to the 'gallery'. It is vibrant and living. Roberts' work exemplifies this - the land is his gallery. The sculpted trees continue to keep growing, rooted in the land, entwining life and art to create a new, ever changing environment. Truly a "Sacred Space".

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