Artists and residents alike gathered in the Bronx Council on the Arts headquarters Friday night for the culminating ceremony of the No Nature exhibit.
Presented by the Longwood Art Gallery at Hostos Community College, the exhibit was part of Longwood’s 2022 project, Polarities, intended to raise awareness on how the Bronx is both a city metropolis and natural environment in which people can find solace and restoration.
“All the artists deal with nature or the natural world as source material or within their practice, but they also have a strong tie to the city,” said Rachel Sydlowski, the curator of the exhibit. “So those are the two polarities we are dealing with and how it came together.”
Sydlowksi said that the No Nature exhibit had been in the works since November 2021. Since the Longwood Art Gallery is temporarily closed, the Bronx Council of the Arts offered their headquarters for the pop-up exhibit.
No Nature opened for viewing on Jan. 21. Participating artists included Regiane Donadio, Katherine Emely Gomez, Alonsa Guevara, Jessica Maffia, Palén Obesa, and Sima Schloss. Art pieces included sculptures, paintings, linocut prints, photographs, and embroidery.
Obesa, a visual artist who moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2012, created linocut pieces that explored themes of death, trauma, religion, oppression, and how these factors contribute to the makeup of our heads. She said that all her pieces try to convey messages about the environment and environmental issues.
“That’s why most of my pieces usually take place in open fields, like open areas, deserts, with a lot of vegetation around,” said Obesa. “It also talks about our own fertility as human beings, but also us being surrounded by fertility and how we’re ending or taking over that with our footprint.”
Schloss, a visual and conceptual artist, painted the window installation on the front of the Bronx Council of the Arts headquarters, which was also her first time working on glass. She said she hopes people will think differently about nature’s connection to the Bronx following the exhibit.
“I wanted to play with the concepts of trees and people, and people still being nature. It’s a contradiction but also not,” said Schloss. “I want people to leave thinking. Thinking a little differently about our everyday surroundings, what we consider to be nature, and what we don’t. I don’t think people connect the Bronx to nature.”
Exhibit attendees filled the space, chatting with the artists about their pieces. Many seemed in awe of the pieces.
“I’m amazed, actually, at the technique of these artists, aside from just looking at them and enjoying them aesthetically,” said Gail Nathan, director of the Bronx River Arts Center as well as a practicing artist herself. “It’s an amazingly strong representation that you don’t really even really notice at first because you notice it as an abstract composition.”
Longwood Art Gallery will continue the duality theme of the Bronx in future exhibitions throughout 2022. Sydlowski hopes that viewers will appreciate the vividness of the exhibit while thinking about natural changes in the environment.
“I wanted to give people this really, like, verdant, sort of lush experience visually when they came in,” said Sydlowski. “I also think it’s very prescient to deal with issues of the environment and think about not only planning for now, but our relationship with nature and how we have to plan for future generations.