On Tuesday, Oct. 5, the Hartnett Gallery opened up its doors and display space to its latest exhibition: “Naturally: Looking at Looking at Nature.”

The opening reception was featured as an activity for the kick-off to Meliora Weekend and attracted a great deal of attendees, both from UR and the greater Rochester area.

The exhibit plays with the definition of nature in its greatness, both in size and beauty, and is demonstrated with works of photography, painting, video and site-specific installations.

“Naturally” looks to show the multiple perspectives and interpretations of nature and hopes to address the recent turn that we have seen against nature with concerns that include global warming, bioengineering, bioterrorism, biodiversity and renewable sources.

“Now, more than ever before, our relationship to nature is being questioned as well as our place in the great chain of being,” Jr. Hartnett’s “Naturally” catalog essay by Clarence Burton Sheffield said.

“What does it mean to make an artwork about nature? How is it that nature is being framed whether on the canvas, in the camera lens or on the video monitor?”

Each artist on display in the exhibit – Stephanie McMahon, Nick Ruth, Stefan Petranek and Mark Grimm – has a tie to upstate New York and the greater Rochester region as well.

McMahon is a visiting Assistant Professor of Painting and Drawing at Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y. and received her M.F.A. in Painting from the University of Texas at Austin. Ruth received his M.F.A. in painting from the Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and currently teaches at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. Petranek received his M.F.A. from Rochester Institute of Technology and continues to teach there today. Grimm, a Fairport, N.Y. resident, is currently completing his doctorate at Columbia University and received his M.F.A. from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

“The four artists comprising the exhibition? demonstrate an important impulse in contemporary art – namely the ongoing investigation of nature and the way in which natural phenomena and processes inspire, provoke and suggest the artistic imagery,” Sheffield said.

“Each of these artists explores and responds to the natural world, not as the monolithic entity, but as a complex, dynamic, multifarious, continually reconstituted, and awe-inspiring system.”

Both McMahon and Ruth use the most traditional medium in responding to nature: paint. McMahon uses shaped canvases with abstract brushstrokes, and right angles of both squares and rectangles are done in a softer format. Layered, her work demonstrates the dynamic, fluid and unpredictable aspects of nature.

Similarly abstract, Ruth’s work deals with the “tragic-comic play between the human and the natural.” Using earthly colors and identifiable objects, he explores the concrete and transient aspects of man’s relationship with nature.

Petrenak works with the artistic medium of photography, video and installation art. Informed by biology, natural history and the epistemology of scientific investigation, Petrenak’s work is grounded by the give-and-take relationship between the view and the viewed. Aware of his presence in his own work, he bears witness to his own relationship with nature as he observes his own observations and pauses to reflect on their significance.

Grimm uses a wide variety of technology and media in his work. Specifically, he looks at the relationship between art, technology and science. “Trees” and “Flies,” his two installations in the exhibit, use electronic technology to show and record the slow growth of a tree and the quick swarm of a group of flies.

The installation takes into account the viewer, who is detected, recorded electronically and then fed into the respective virtual images and the swarm.

“‘Naturally’ explores our ever-changing perception of nature,” Hartnett Gallery Coordinator Stephen Dybas said. “As our understanding of nature develops and technology advances, we are constantly re-evaluating nature. A large part of this exhibit is how technology works with nature and vice versa.”

“Naturally’ will be on display at the Hartnett Gallery until Nov. 16. The gallery is located on the second floor of Wilson Commons.

Lewis is a member of the class of 2008.

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