Dec 2, 2011

REVIEW | UnNaturally, Mary-Kay Lombino, Independent Curators International, 2003

Mary-Kay Lombino's Unnaturally, 2003

The book UnNaturally is an essay by Mary Kay Lombino, the curator of the UnNaturally exhibition. Both the book and exhibition explore the concept of faux nature and the confusion between real and fake environments. Have humans seen so much man made nature in places like malls, airports, and amusement parks that they can no longer pinpoint where real ends and fake begins? UnNaturally explores this issue and more with work from nineteen artists.
Michael Pierzynski, Cultivating Internal Plastic Infinity, 1999
The first round of artists presented in the book examine the act of commodifing nature. Michael Pierzynski's sculpture entitled Cultivating Internal Plastic Infinity is an airbrushed, disneyesque figurine representing two trees fused together in a cartoonish and stylized way, removing the wild and untamed disorder of real trees. The author suggests that commodifing nature often involves “fetishizing” it, giving forced and manicured bonzai trees as her example. 

Los Angeles artist Nicoletta Monroe photographs sets from popular daytime TV shows in their off hours for her Cherry Blossoms series. Using tricks of the film industry, she sets up photos that appear real to a certain extent, but could be spotted as a fake by someone with an eye for detail. The author points this out as an interesting commentary on what passes as real nature on television. 

Marc Quinn, Garden, 2000
Marc Quinn's 2001 installation entitled Garden seeks to improve on nature by preserving it and avoiding the natural process of decay. A large aquarium tank was filled with exotic plants from all over the world and then filled in with clear silicon. Even though the flowers are real, they give the impression of being artificial because the bright colors and exotic species. The fact that they are dead yet preserved also adds to the unnatural quality of the plants.

Michelle Segre, Untitled, 2000

A quote by Charles Darwin at the beginning of the book speaks to the idea that the creations of nature would always eclipse that of man, because of the much longer time frame in which they take place. Michael Segre celebrates the beauty of nature with oversized, beeswax sculptures of plants. A person sized mushroom sculpture is turned upside down for viewing in Untitled, revealing the intricate detail of the everyday fungus and encouraging the viewer to examine the superior craftsmanship of the natural object more carefully.

Jason Middlebrook's large scale sculpture Plant doubles as a bench and planter. Holes cut in the surface of the bench allow plants to grow across the middle. While sitting on the bench, one might feel as though they were sitting on the ground with plants growing up just beside them. The author adds that perhaps it is inevitable that nature will take over once again, with plants growing up through man made structures and eventually enveloping them as the plants grow up through then bench.

Living in urban centers has forced humans to create their own faux nature and over time this has effected the way they view reality. UnNaturally is a critique of this phenomenon and points out how Disney and other types of commercialization have corrupted the way we experience nature. 

-Robert Wingfield 


  1. I find these pieces really eerie, and I'm glad I stumbled upon this. I love how you point out that Disney plays a part in the idealism of the way we see nature.
    -Kassidy Pritchard

  2. really neat, i loved this! I like how you add in we see nature from a corrupted view. That we have the misconception that things must be polished and refined, even nature, when it is truly a beast of its own kind.

    - Erin Davis

  3. faux bois! I've always been fascinated by the way human beings try to mimic nature. It's been happening for as long as people have been making art, and I'm happy to see that it's still coming up in new and fresh ideas.

    -Sara Marie Miller