By Sarah Mann
Elm Staff Writer
What is the relationship between humans and nature? The art exhibition “Convergence,” by the Art History Club, featuring the artwork of Howard McCoy, Mary McCoy, senior Liv Kittel, and Stu Cawley, seeks to answer this question.
The exhibition took place on Friday, March 22 in Daly 208. In the middle of the room was a piece by Howard and Mary McCoy called FourSquare, composed of a tree trunk surrounded by a square of shells on the floor. According to the McCoys, “the phrase ‘four square’ connotes something solid, strong and forthright.
The tree, “rescued from a tidal river beach,” is cedar—“a tree ubiquitous in the Chesapeake landscape.” The piece also makes use of goose feathers, which “tell of migration, hunting, the impact of flocks on agriculture, and the familiar honking calls heard from September to March.”
A second piece by Howard and Mary McCoy was called Shaman’s Wall. “Shaman’s Wall explores the parallel idea that all of life is alive with spirit.” The materials used come from the environment, and “they reference the shaman’s healing powers which originate in nature, especially his spirit flight in search of remedies for his people’s ills.”
Kittel also contributed to the exhibition with “Three Untitled Photographs.”
“Photography has always been attractive to me because of its very situational, unpredictable nature. As a slowly-reforming perfectionist, photography allows me to abandon logic and rules in order to capture and share my own perspective,” she said. “I draw my inspiration largely from landscapes, the environment and am most fascinated by the use of natural light to convey perspective. I refrain from editing my photographs as to preserve their integrity and to better communicate natural beauty.”
Stu Cawley, who also contributed artwork to “Convergence,” said that his attention “has frequently been drawn to areas in which man’s activities have blended with and reached some sort of equilibrium with their surroundings.” His pieces “Church Hill Calvary/Grapevine Golgotha” and “Warp & Weave/Lawyers’ Row” convey this interest as well as the theme of nature overturning man’s best attempts to impress a sense of order on the environment, with “plants invading and working their determined way around, through, up, and over the built human landscape, testaments to both man’s hubris and nature’s inexorable march.”
“Small Works on Glass” by Mary McCoy similarly investigates the interaction of humans with the environment.
“These works are artifacts of living close to nature,” she said. “They are part of a series of works on glass in which the materials and captions jointly tell the story of a particular encounter. Clear glass is used as an allusion to display cases and laboratory slides in order to encourage close inspection of the materials. Epoxy is used for permanence and for its tendency to tinge sepia-colored, invoking the nostalgia of vintage photographs.”
Overall, the collection leaves one with a certain feeling of wonder for the environment of the Chesapeake—for both its boundless beauty and its history, one that holds the secrets of centuries of contact between the land and its inhabitants. The art in the exhibit showcases multiple interpretations of this mysterious and often surprising relationship, and in the process, invites the viewer to reflect on his or her own role within it.