Regional habitats inspire local artists

An exhibit at the Bell Museum will feature work from 17 different artists.

Allison Wickler

Sometimes another person’s perspective on his or her surroundings can change the way people interact with them.

That’s what the artists of Project Art for Nature hope will prove true through their new exhibit.

“Project Art for Nature: Presence, Essence, Absence,” opens Saturday at the Bell Museum of Natural History, with an opening reception from 7 to 9 p.m.

Seventeen artists from Minnesota and Wisconsin contributed to the 120-piece collection, said artist and founder of Project Art for Nature Vera Wong.

Each artist selected a Minnesota or Wisconsin habitat that has been changed because of human existence and used it for their art, which ranges from paintings to sculptures.

The exhibit shows pieces of nature that need to be preserved, Wong said.

Wong wants the exhibit to expose viewers to conservation needs as well as allow an opportunity to directly contribute to natural conservation efforts.

Many of the pieces will be for sale, and project organizers will donate the proceeds to the Scientific and Natural Areas program at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which currently protects 130 natural areas in Minnesota.

Wong, who lives near River Falls, Wis., created her paintings based on gullies and rolling hills among farm fields in that area.

“I’ve always been really interested in bits of nature that survive humanity,” she said.

Artist Mimi Holmes, who teaches art at the University, created her pieces from natural objects that were “dropped” by nature, such as fallen leaves, pebbles and seeds.

“I’m a recycler and a collector,” she said.

Holmes chose Boom Island park, located on the Mississippi River near Nicollet Island, because it showed “persistent wildlife,” or how nature continues to exist despite human presence.

Robyn Priestley said it was important to show the elements of nature that still exist within the Twin Cities, which is why she worked at Indian Mounds Regional Park in St. Paul.

Some presenters focused on the artistic aspect of the project, while others have a stronger background in the environment.

project art for nature:presence, essence, absence
what: Opening reception for the exhibit.
when: 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday
where: Bell Museum of Natural History cost: $5
For more information, go to: The Bell Museum Website.

Wong, who has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in studio art from the University, decided to use her artistic abilities to promote conservation.

For those without strong environmental backgrounds, the project was a valued learning opportunity.

“I’m not as botanically-oriented as some of the others,” Holmes said, “but I’m taking it as a challenge.”

The artists will also hold demonstrations during several weekends of the exhibit’s run, and two artists will teach their techniques in workshops open to the public.

The exhibit will run through May 27 and is the last traveling exhibit showing at the Bell this school year.