Imaginative works explore consumerism, ecology and the environment in ‘The Earth is Us’ art exhibit

Few artists are more resourceful than those dedicated to celebrating and protecting our planet.

In “The Earth is Us: Forging a New Relationship,” on view through Oct. 29, in the Main Gallery at the Priscilla R. Tyson Cultural Arts Center, 12 artists make use of recycled materials to create works that both marvel at the wonders of the planet and warn of the critical issues facing it.

Exhibit curator Char Norman, working from an idea presented by Main Gallery coordinator Tom Baillieul, selected artists whose works would explore a “symbiotic relationship with the earth and embrace eco-psychology.” The result is an inventive, imaginative selection of works made with surprising materials and offering a variety of themes.

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In her installation “Distortion,” Anita Maharjan weaves together plastic bags and paper towels, discarded bed sheets and paper (all representing a consumerist society) to form a giant inchworm like creature, meandering over the gallery floor. Maharjan similarly uses plastic bags to create the graceful wall sculpture, “Disruption.”

Making use of even more unlikely materials is Kyle Downs whose “Sport #1” and “Sport #2” are made from strands of discarded basketballs. The works are gorgeous with their bright-orange-and-blue colors. Impossibly, “Sport 2” resembles a Southwestern rug.

Priscilla Roggenkamp employs recycled clothing for her elegant and dramatic four-part wall hanging “We Are Elemental: Earth, Air, Water, Fire.”

In the center of the gallery, Catherine Bell Smith has installed 12 podiums, each topped with a crystal ball and each including dozens of small medallions made of recycled plastic. (Visitors are encouraged to take one home.) Above this installation, titled “Marking Time (a non-zero-sum solution)” are hanging balls of tumbleweeds. Gathering objects both natural and man-made facilitates Bell Smith in her exploration of nature.

In his wall sculpture “ONUS,” Bruce Robinson incorporates a water filter to emphasize the similarities between humans (composed of 61% water) and the Earth (71% water).

Jacklyn Brickman and Kathryn Logan collaborate on a video piece, “A Compendium of Pathway Encounters,” largely created at Woodward Nature Preserve in Columbus.

Of Casey Bradley’s several pieces in the exhibit perhaps most striking is “Hand to Earth (Spiritus),” created of cast bronze and wood bark. What looks like a perpendicular, rotting log evolves into a human finger pointing down.

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In her “Belonging to Soil” pieces, Amy M. Youngs celebrates the humble arthropod springtail, a burrowing insect that helps to build healthy soil. Using her virtual reality headset, visitors can go underground with the insect or, through magnifying glasses, take a look at the real things scurrying around in terrariums.

The exhibit extends into the Cultural Arts Center courtyard, where Celeste Malvar-Stewart has dressed a mannequin with natural fibers, plants and seeds soon to sprout in “Grassroots.” Also, hanging from trees in the courtyard are Ron Shelton’s bright yellow “Wasp Nests” built of plastic from cat litter containers. Inside the gallery, Shelton continues using the color yellow as an environmental warning in “Yellow Waterfall,” a massive sculpture built of plastic shreds.

Yet to come in another location is a motion and sound installation, created by Daric Gill, that will be on view later this fall at the Center of Science and Industry, 333 W. Broad St. The piece promises to stress the relationship between environmental science and art.

“The Earth is Us” is a fascinating exhibit created by artists, many of whom have connections to the Columbus College of Art & Design. Kudos to them for caring enough about the Earth to use their talents to highlight its challenges and marvels.

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At a glance

“The Earth is Us: Forging a New Relationship” continues through Oct. 29, at the Priscilla R. Tyson Cultural Arts Center, 139 W. Main St. Hours: 1 to 4 and 7 to 10 p.m. Mondays; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free. Call 614-645-7047 or visit www.culturalartscenteronline.org.

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