The outside world

Five artists ‘On Nature’ at the Chazan Gallery
By GREG COOK  |  March 3, 2010

CASCADE One of Metcalf’s waterfalls.

For some time now, Providence artist Adrianne Evans has been mulling natural processes in her art. She fashions balls of glass that resemble scarred planets or thin shells of bubbling blue atmosphere. She makes chunks of glass with multicolored bands that look like the banded layers of sedimentary rocks. She also assembles dozens of red autumn leaves into dense clumps so they look like banded rocks.

Some of these works are included in "On Nature," a five-artist show at the Chazan Gallery at the Wheeler School (228 Angell Street, Providence, though March 18), but her most intriguing works here move from mimicking nature to stepping into the relationship between sunlight and tree leaves. She masks out sections of leaves while they're still on trees, leaving yellow lines in red leaves where sunlight was blocked from the leaves and the plants' usual photochemical reaction was interrupted. It's sort of like writing with sunscreen on someone's back when they were sunbathing.

Evans's idea — a kind of collaboration with nature that reveals its delicate and intricate workings — has a catchy elemental electricity. But she stumbles in choosing subjects to print onto the leaves. Sunscreen features the title printed onto a maple leaf. Some leaves feature equations. An oak leaf has the word "oak" printed across it. They read like dull punchlines because she's imposing too much upon the leaves, losing the poetry of her process.


Sun Print is better, in part because it speaks in pictures rather than written words. It presents a red maple leaf with the yellow shadow of a smaller leaf printed upon it. Also included is that smaller red leaf. I'm told the smaller leaf masked out the larger one because they were stitched together by a spider's web. It still feels like the beginning of an idea, rather than an idea in full flower. But you can feel that Evans is onto something the more she attunes to nature itself.

The other artists in "On Nature" assume the more familiar posture of artists depicting landscapes. Roberta Shapiro of Providence embroiders scenes like a row of trees behind a chain-link fence, or a dull gray factory building, apparently partly covered by vines, or telephone poles running along the mowed grass at the edge of a road. Her stitchery has the grayed-out colors of snapshots. Shapiro seems to still be developing the idea, but her works offer glimpses of places where sprawling human development and nature intersect in typically bad feng shui, mind-numbing America.

Landscape drawings by Todd Moore of Tiverton and Mara Metcalf of Providence both have a bit of the feel of traditional Chinese ink drawings. Moore describes stretches of rocky coastline or tumbles of boulders in sharp black lines and gray washes. He often drips or scratches lines up and down the drawings that suggest the imperfections of mechanical printing, and give the works a photographic feel. He's at his sharpest in drawings like New Hampshire Series (a) (2005), which depicts rocks seeming to have tumbled down between larger boulders. Much of the scene is cast into shadow, and Moore picks out the sunlight catching the edges of the stones. It's a carefully loose rendition. And his attention to light nails the mood of the place.

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