Exhibit links nature with art

Jun 30, 2017 7:11PM

Painterly creation meets conservation as three artists physically connect the dots between nature and art in a new exhibition in two places.

Emergent Patterns at Phipps Conservatory, The Center for Sustainable landscapes

Emergent Patterns at Phipps Conservatory, The Center for Sustainable Landscapes

Emergent Patterns at BoxHeart Gallery, paintings by Ashley Cecil

Emergent Patterns at BoxHeart Gallery, paintings by Deirdre Murphy

Emergent Patterns at BoxHeart Gallery, paintings by Augustina Droze

Nicole Capozzi, owner and director of BoxHeart Gallery, contacted the  three artists in late 2015 in hopes of celebrating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which established federal prohibitions on pursuing, hunting  or killing migratory birds.

Out of this collaboration, “Ashley Cecil, Augustina Droze and Deirdre  Murphy: Emergent Patterns” grew. The exhibition, which examines the  collective behavior inherent in bird activity, opened late last month at  Phipps Conservatory’s Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Oakland and  begins at BoxHeart Gallery in Bloomfield on Tuesday.

Jordyn Melino, Phipps’ exhibit coordinator, said the selection of art  ties in well with the theme of biophilia, the subject of a recent talk  by Ms. Cecil and Ms. Murphy at Phipps. She said she felt a connection  between the women’s artwork and the gallery space itself.

“Biophilia is human’s inherent love for nature. That can be found in all relationships and through life,” Ms. Melino said.

Each artist approaches familiar subjects — flora and fauna, mostly including birds — through a different lens.

Ashley Cecil
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on Yellow, 2016

Ms. Cecil, a Pittsburgh-based artist, prefers to create her work using live sketches. During a recent residency at Phipps, she studied  birds and flowers inside the Victorian glasshouse. Now she studies  taxidermy bird and insect specimens at the Carnegie Museum of Natural  History, creating artwork supporting BirdSafe Pittsburgh, an initiative  to reduce bird collisions with buildings. Unfortunately, it’s the most  common way humans kill birds, much higher than hunting.

Ms. Cecil describes the pattern work in her painting as Victorian.  Most pieces feature a combination of illustration and fine art  techniques. Reflecting her interest in textiles, realistic flora and  fauna are set against soft geometric backdrops.

Deirdre Murphy
Ricochet, 2015

Philadelphia-based Deirdre Murphy takes a more scientific approach  yet still uses varying levels of rendering and abstraction to illustrate  birdlife.

“I made the leap from representation to abstraction because they’re  speaking the same language in a slightly different dialect,” she said.

Ms. Murphy took photographs of migratory bird flocks and for each set  of wings, she made a dot on the canvas. A point cloud matrix emerged,  connecting the dots and unveiling geometric patterns that naturally  occur in the sky.

In “Commute/​Alone We Journey Together,” purple triangles  representing individual birds float above telephone wires, creating  polygons and patterns.

“If I make these flocking maps, I can decode this social networking in the sky and create a geometric pattern,” Ms. Murphy said.

Augustina Droze
Moths, 2016

Augustina Droze, whom Ms. Capozzi describes as a “painter’s painter”  from Buffalo, N.Y., uses many layers of paint and the movement of  brushstrokes to create her work. Widely renowned for her massive mural  work in communities across the globe, she lives and teaches in China.

Much of her work featured in this exhibition includes mandala-like  patterns of flora and fauna, realistically portrayed in oil and acrylic  on canvas.

“These are three really interesting artists paired together,” said  Ms. Capozzi. “They’re doing the same thing but in different ways.”

The artists said they found the collaboration transformative. Ms.  Murphy hinted that she might work again with Ms. Cecil in the future.

“Women artists are underrepresented. ... The top 10 percent are  primarily male, so I thought it was really intuitive of [Ms. Capozzi],”  Ms. Murphy said. “She has her finger on the pulse of a bigger picture.”

Article by Courtney Linder

November 9, 2016, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette