Green Hill Center hangs an art garden

by Amy Kingsley

Bryant Holsenbeck’s “Wild” is one of the installations at Green Hill Center this summer. (photos by Amy Kingley)

 The seeds of the Green Hill Center’s REGROWTH exhibit first rooted themselves in curator Edie Carpenter’s mind several months ago, when she started thinking about how to follow the gallery’s spring portrait show. “Coming out of that show, which was filled with a population of people,” Carpenter says, “doingsomething like this just seemed like a natural choice.” Natural isn’t a quality most people associate with galleries. Preparators regulate everything about theenvironment, includinglighting and humidity, presenting the works in a space as fortified against the elements as a lead-lined fallout shelter. Carpenter envisioned REGROWTH as an opportunity to bring the natural world — as conceived by North Carolina artists — back inside the gallery walls. “We considered work that shares some of the same metaphysical associations as the garden,” she says. “The idea was to bring together a group of artists who are working with the themes of growth and decay.” Carpenter organized the show like a garden, dividing the gallery into plots that each artist could cultivate as they pleased. Ceramicist/glass artist Sally Rockriver planted hers with sculptural hybrids. “She makes really strange forms that arise from a combination of geochemical processes in glass and ceramics,” Carpenter says. Her “Planetary Garden” includes viscous forms that combine the smooth textures of glass with coarse ceramic surfaces. The pieces unite amphibious and reptilian characteristics in ways that bring to mind the lost links between slimy salamanders and armored iguanas. Rockriver, who lives and works near Chapel Hill, has never exhibited in Greensboro before. Her work has traveled to New York City several times, where she has exhibited on both sides of the Brooklyn Bridge. Unlike Rockriver — the technological innovator — the painter Nancy Baker’s works stand out for their traditionalism. She paints heavy, Northern Renaissance-style landscapes on panels. “There is the allusion here to an archaic style of painting,” Carpenter says. Against this backdrop, Baker places symbols of modern success like jewelry and technology. Baker created a site-specific work for the gallery out of digital wallpaper featuring birds, thick foliage and war machines. The piece covers the three walls of an alcove. “There is an utter invasion of the natural by society,” Carpenter says, “so nature has been Photoshopped into something that is fleeting.” Installationartist Bryant Holsenbeck takes composting to a new level in her piece“Wild.” In it, she creates a natural world out of the very unnaturalthings that we throw away: plastic bags, rubber tubes and librarybooks. “Wild” is filled with creatures, foxes, rabbits and crows,assembled out of trash and bound with twine. “Even though shemakes them out of plastic bags and twine,” Carpenter says, “her animalshave such life that I think she can be ranked among the great animalsculptors.”

LeahSobsey, who teaches photography at UNCG, also trains her lens on theanimal side of garden life. Her prints of birds — mummified specimensfrom the NC Museum of Natural Sciences — look like still-lifes. Each ofthe prints, which were made in editions of 25, is titled with thebirds’ Latin name. “When you see these birds,”

Carpentersays, “it’s obvious they’re dead. You can tell by the white eyes andthe way they’re laid out. It’s confronting us with the reality ofmortality.” REGROWTH’s other installation is anenclosed piece by Ann Marie Kennedy titled “Winter Garden.” Kennedy,who’s primary medium is paper, made the walls out of waxed silk,installed several plants and illuminated the work with a single bulb.When you walk around the piece, it imparts an illusion of movement. “WinterGarden” is a muted collection of shadows and absence, unlike theexuberant floral topiaries contributed by Ann Resnick, a Wichita,Kan.-based artist who studied printmaking at UNCG. For her floralprints, she carved and printed each individual flower into overlappingpatterns.

Then she turned them into three dimensional sculptures of her dogs, Dasher and Delta. Anaccompanying piece carpets a freestanding wall with the flowers —plastic daisies in all shades of pink, yellow and orange, and pairs itwith motion-triggered bird songs. The recordings come from actualbirds, offsetting the artificiality of the flowers and making it seem,for a moment, that the outdoors has invaded the gallery space. “Justin general I think there is a sense of urgency that we cannot stopconsidering about the natural world,” Carpenter says. “Our gardens aresomething we need to nurture.”

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