From their proposal in early 2018 and acceptance later that year, to the back and forth of show titles, themes, image selection, and discussions of dates and workshops, the five printmakers’ show “Inspired by Nature” seemed like any other that I curate and look forward to presenting at the Arboretum. Then, everything changed. With COVID-19, the Arboretum’s Visitor Center and exhibition spaces in the Hunnewell Building closed to the public, and workplaces for most Arboretum staff and so many others became their homes. Many artists had to leave studios along with works in progress and framed pieces ready to install, while plans and invitations for receptions and onsite workshops had to be abandoned. Through all of this, the five printmakers featured in this show were patient, flexible, and understanding.
Artists greatly anticipate the exposure and connections developed through an exhibition, and are doubly encouraged if it is the realization of a long-standing aspiration. So losing the venue, the opportunity to bring their art to the public after over two years of work, was disappointing, yet something none of us could have envisioned. Still, the enthusiasm to continue our efforts in some way remained strong. We are so pleased to be able to bring this show to life and share it with everyone as an online exhibition.
Shows at the Arnold Arboretum always emanate from artists’ deep and usually personal affinity for nature, whether specifically aligned with the Arboretum itself or with the things—like conservation, biodiversity, and the essential importance of trees—that we care about. These five printmakers embody that affinity, and show us that the title of their show Inspired by Nature, was not just a fortunate choice in a former time. It’s a title that holds true especially and uncannily at this time, when we all look to nature for well-being and for relief from stress, and perhaps, like our printmakers, for inspiration. This global crisis calls for all of us to treasure and immerse ourselves in nature, from watching spring unfold in our neighborhoods to enjoying trees virtually through the creativity of these five printmakers.
Look for the careful attention to pattern in Arlene Bandes’s collaged layers of color, shape, and form and a particular emphasis on leaves. Lynda Goldberg’s art moves into the organics of nature in subtly hued, or vibrant swirls of intricate shapes and movements akin to dance, as evidenced in two of her work’s titles—Dance and Dance I. Mary-Beth Maisel takes us with her on a journey as well through her intense study of trees, whether a study of a single tree or many trees, overlaid with mixed media, color, and shadows in a network of interlaced stems and leaves. White line woodblock printing grew out of Provincetown, Massachusetts and finds a true practitioner in Amy McGregor-Radin. Her work is reminiscent of quiet walks in the woods, where the simple observation of nature is no longer overlooked, but recorded, respected, and savored. Truly detailed leaves and plant material are Gayle Smalley’s forte in her monotypes of New England trees. Using ink to accentuate the fine veins and shapes with rich colors, she delights in the simplicity of presentation united with the complexity within nature.
Be inspired yourself, as you take in our virtual art show. You will be able to appreciate, contemplate, and take in the the nature of our exhibiting artists and the nature in their art.