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Exhibition Provides Detailed Perspective on the Natural World

Jeff Regensburger Jeff Regensburger Exhibition Provides Detailed Perspective on the Natural WorldGhost Forest (detail) - by Char Norman.
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The intersection of nature and art is a spot often marked by epic vistas and grand gestures. Whether it’s the massive canvases of Turner and Birdstadt, the monumental earthworks of Heizer and Smithson, or the stoic sculptures of Long and Goldsworthy, nature vis-a-vis art is usually presented to us in heroic scale. The urge to celebrate nature at it’s most expansive would seem to be hardwired into our brains.


De Recho (detail)

Of course the downside of our focus on nature’s large-scale drama is the very real possibility that we’ll miss the details. You can’t see the individual trees after all, if you’re focusing on the vast expanse of the forest. It takes a different perspective, a different way of seeing the world to find and celebrate nature’s smaller moments. In Ghost Forest, an exhibition currently on view at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center, artist Char Norman provides just that perspective.

Norman creates sculptural works that invite viewers to get in close, explore subtle variations, and revel in textural shifts. Combining the found detritus of the natural world with handmade paper and natural fibers, Norman’s pieces bridge what has become a significant divide between the natural world and the one we’ve created.

From a formal perspective, the results are astounding. Natural and handmade forms fit together with uncanny precision. Shapes repeat, echo and interlock. Colors complement and contrast. Norman’s mastery of nature’s visual vocabulary is so convincing, so free of any telling accent, that it’s often impossible to determines where her contributions end and nature’s begin.

Acts of Devotion (detail)

Left: Acts of Devotion (detail), Right: Secrets of the Emerald Ash Borers.

There’s a spiritual component to these works as well. Their material qualities invite viewers to consider heady topics like birth, death, and rejuvenation. They also rekindle our ancient connection to the environment. That many of the pieces resemble timeworn relics and talismans only serves to enhance their sacred aura. This spiritual sense permeates the space itself as the dramatic lighting creates something very much like a sequence of distinct, devotional chapels.


Tabernacle Leaf.

Ghost Forest is ultimately a consistent, convincing and accomplished statement from an artist who has clearly found her voice. It’s an exhibition of such visual and thematic consistency that the works appear self-evident, existing because they’ve somehow always existed, because they were meant to exist. Further, it’s an exhibition that demands we consider the interconnectedness of humans and nature in a way that reflects the frailty of that relationship, but also points towards its potential. In that sense, Ghost Forest is aspirational, prescriptive even, illustrating not the world as we know it, but the world that could be.

Ghost Forest is on view at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center through March 11.

For more information, visit www.culturalartscenteronline.org.

Char Norman
Tabernacle Leaf
Handmade paper, collage, sewing (threads, leaves, digital print,wax)

Char Norman
De Recho (detail)
Hand papermaking, coiling, assemblage (bark, hand-made paper, linen)

Char Norman
Secrets of the Emerald Ash Borers
Handmand paper, weaving (Ash-bark, linen fiber, abaca paper)

Char Norman
Secrets of the Emerald Ash Borers (detail)
Handmand paper, weaving (Ash-bark, linen fiber, abaca paper)

Char Norman
Acts of Devotion (detail)
Weaving, coiling, assemblage, handmade paper (mixed media)

Char Norman
Ghost Forest (detail)
Handpaper making, assemblage (bark, hand-made paper)


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