Berkshire Botanical Garden art shows more than pretty nature

Paintings of flowers and pretty trees? Ceramics in the shape of tree stumps? Pops of color, saturated skies, intricate patterns drawn straight from nature?

That’s the guts and glamor of ‘Shimmer’, a new seasonal exhibit at the Berkshire Botanical Garden which debuted a month before the grounds were fully open to the public. There’s a rich range of art here, some of it just plain appealing, sure, but some of it relevant and timely. Timely for the season – it’s April, after all – and relevant to the area’s art scene with some well-known names included.

As in any show by 38 artists, it is the exceptional that draws you in. Perhaps start with a set of four small paintings by Kathy Osborn, mounted on a quirky and ironically perfect wooden plank gallery wall. Osborn captured small moments of the thin air of normal life and painted them with a demanding tenderness. Somehow they transcend their simplicity by exploring it in a discovery of ultimate and eluded meaning.

These may not seem directly related to spring bloom, but that’s the strength of the exhibit as a whole. As the show’s statement suggests: “A twinkle can be a light in the dark, but can also, at times, be difficult to detect.” And so it’s an open show with the almost undetectable as its goal, discovery.

That said, it is inevitable that flowers and plants will dominate, given the location and the winter thaw. And some of the works in this vein – mostly paintings – are vivid and imposing, and exhilaratingly sophisticated. A look at a set of three studies of trees and their interlocking branches by Laini Nemett leads to closer examination, subtle observation and nuance. Alone, they strike and, in groups, they compose with intelligence.

JoAnn Carson’s paintings are fully realized and deeply felt, using botanical forms and colors in an intricate and visually safe way, creating still life from the tangle of a garden. Anthropomorphic forms add life to what is surely already overflowing.

More creative works like Jennifer Hunnold’s “You, Again, But Different” digital drawing show good visual sense with an undertone of folk art mystery, a series of repeating tree-like shapes stacking up in a forest . Eric Wolf’s thick ink drawing resembles a mid-century print of waves and distant mountains, stripped of the elements. And thoroughly abstract works like Katia Santibanez’s “Floating in My Mind” and Audrey Stone’s “Through Line” find what seems to be nature’s inner energy, and perhaps cruelest month, at its best. paramount.

“Shimmer” has a reach, that’s for sure. At one extreme, take Kay Rosen’s “I’m Green,” a simple white square with lime-green capital letters saying “LI’ME GREEN.” On the other, a pair of subtle, dry, finely observed black and white photographs of sparse urban settings by Lisa Kernan remind us of the beauty of contemplation. Somewhere else are Ricky de Luna Parc’s comical tree stumps, ceramic sculptures with faces, many of which are called “Tree Sprites”, each bright and fun and weird.

But plants, floral studies, organically shaped compositions and a few landscapes form the vernal core of the show. It’s lively and captivating. Many of these works demonstrate how well the act of making art – and the oil, graphite, acrylic, gouache and watercolor used – harmonize perfectly with colors, surfaces and any the rich substance of the living world.

I must admit that I left this show rather happy. Maybe the world hadn’t completely fallen apart, and here’s inspired and pretty proof of that.


Where: 5 West Stockbridge Road, Stockbridge, Massachusetts

When: until May 1

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Admission fee

Info: 413-298-3926 or https://www.berkshire

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