Inhuman Nature

She's big, she's scary, and she's pissed. The mutha of all muthas -- Gaia -- is a force to be reckoned with, and she's sending shock waves, floods and monster storms to settle the score.

The exhibition "Separation Anxiety" explores the growing tension between Mother Nature and mankind. "We've always had an uneasy relationship with nature, this year especially, because we're facing natural disasters, epidemics [and] hurricanes," says Arizona State University art professor and exhibition curator Mary Bates Neubauer.

With computers smaller than insects and skyscrapers towering miles above the planet's surface, it might seem that we've conquered nature. But, Neubauer asserts, the tsunami in Southeast Asia and the hurricanes pounding our southern coasts indicate otherwise. "This is a year when nature has asserted her force. It really puts things into perspective," she says.

"Separation Anxiety," which opens on Friday, November 18, at the Icehouse, 429 West Jackson Street, features master works by ASU students, graduate teaching assistants and faculty members, and allows them to penetrate what can be a difficult market for new faces. Neubauer says she's grateful that alternative galleries like the Icehouse are opening their arms (and doors) to these up-and-coming artists, helping to make them "part of the contemporary aesthetics of the city."

Contributing sculptors utilized modern installation techniques to create moving, three-dimensional art that interacts with the viewer. Graduate student Allison Young's fiber sculpture is a good example. A mass of fleshy tentacles hangs in one corner, flowing down in a sea of colored fabric and mimicking the effects of a virus on surrounding cells. As Agent Smith pointed out in the original Matrix film, the action of a virus is much like the effect of the human race on our environment. We move to an area, overpopulate it and consume all of its natural resources -- just as Young's plush tentacles envelop the helpless "cells" of her piece.

Other works in the exhibition include a kinetic sculpture featuring birds in flight by Marco Rosichelli, and Holly Curcio's ceramic figures of the human body. Curcio's Thoughts & Desires shows the fragility of man in comparison to nature. The gray ceramic skin of the figure is cracked and worn, Curcio explains, because "we often consider ourselves a higher life form than plants and animals, [but] even we do not have control over our own birth and death. In this way, we are all part of the same cycle."

This year's theme, with its relevance to current global issues, is especially timely. "Are we a part of nature, or outside of it?" asks Neubauer. "These have been questions since the Enlightenment."

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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden