Artists Imagine Inhabitable Habitats

02/01/2012 4:00 AM |

Anyone can tell you that relationships are complicated, but there isn’t one as urgent or all-encompassing as the one between the earth and its inhabitants. Front Room Gallery’s group show In-Habitat (through February 26th) deals with four artists’ concern for the natural world, and what it means to live here.

Painter Gregory Curry creates abstracted figures in oil using classical techniques. Barely distinguishable from their brightly colored backgrounds, the bodies are at once familiar and otherworldly. Photographer Lisa DiLillo captures nocturnal landscapes up close. Peppered with sparks of light, her images are wonderfully dynamic—shafts of wheat bend low in a breeze; the pale stem of a young flower stretches painfully skyward.

The lone sculptures in the show belong to Kim Holleman. Her landscapes thrive in artificial surroundings; Holleman’s miniature ecosystems live and breathe inside of chemistry equipment (glass beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks). Though the forms inside are organic in shape, they look anything but natural—the leaves and rocks come in an array of Crayola colors. Their borders defined by human intervention, Holleman’s sculptures reflect the environs of today’s natural world: severely limited, and marked indelibly by human influence.

The works by Julia Whitney Barnes indicate a desire for a more harmonious relationship with nature. Barnes combines organic imagery—think abstracted clouds and roots —with renderings of man-made materials. In a mixed-media piece, Barnes affixes an image of a tree house over a dusky forest scene. The house melts easily into the trees, creating a touching visual balance between what is wild and what is not. The piece seems to almost sigh—if only it was this easy in real life.

(Kim Holleman, “Ferrous Tree”; Courtesy the artist, Front Room Gallery)