‘The Earth is Us’ on view this month at the Cultural Arts Center

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

In The Earth is Us: Forging a New Relationship, on view through October 29 at the Priscilla R. Tyson Cultural Arts Center’s main gallery, 12 artists use recycled materials to create works, both about the Wonders marvel at the planet and warn of the critical problems it faces.

Exhibition curator Char Norman, based on an idea presented by Tom Baillieul, the main gallery coordinator, selected artists whose works explore a “symbiotic relationship with the earth and embrace ecopsychology”. 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 sheets and paper (all representative of a consumer society) to form a giant incremental worm-like creature that slithers across the gallery floor. Maharjan also uses plastic bags to create the graceful Disruption wall sculpture.

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Even more improbable materials are used by Kyle Downs, whose “Sport #1” and “Sport #2” are made from strands of discarded basketballs. The works are beautiful with their bright orange-blue colors. Impossible, “Sport 2” resembles a southwest carpet.

Priscilla Roggenkamp uses recycled clothing for her elegant and dramatic four-piece tapestry We Are Elemental: Earth, Air, Water, Fire.

At the center of the gallery, Catherine Bell Smith has installed 12 pedestals, each topped with a crystal ball and each containing dozens of small medallions made from recycled plastic. (Visitors are encouraged to take one home.) Balls of steppe grass hang above this installation, entitled “Marking Time (a non-zero-sum solution)”. Collecting both natural and man-made objects facilitates Bell Smith’s exploration of nature.

In his ONUS wall sculpture, Bruce Robinson incorporates a water filter to emphasize the similarities between man (consisting of 61% water) and the earth (71% water).

Jacklyn Brickman and Kathryn Logan are collaborating on a video work, A Compendium of Pathway Encounters, shot largely at the Woodward Nature Preserve in Columbus.

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Of Casey Bradley’s several pieces in the exhibition, perhaps the most striking is Hand to Earth (Spiritus), created from cast bronze and wood bark. What looks like an upright, rotting tree trunk evolves into a human finger pointing downwards.

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

The exhibition extends into the courtyard of the Cultural Arts Center, where Celeste Malvar-Stewart has dressed a mannequin in natural fibres, plants and seeds that will soon sprout into ‘grassroots’. Also hanging from the trees in the courtyard are Ron Shelton’s bright yellow “wasp nests,” made from plastic made from cat litter bins. In the gallery, Shelton continues to use the color yellow as an environmental warning in Yellow Waterfall, a massive sculpture made from scraps of plastic.

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Also featured at another location is a movement and sound installation created by Daric Gill, which will be on view later this fall at the Center of Science and Industry, 333 W. Broad St. The piece promises to emphasize the relationship between environmental science and art.

The Earth is Us is a fascinating exhibition created by artists, many of whom have ties to the Columbus College of Art & Design. Kudos to them for caring enough about Earth to use their talents to highlight their challenges and wonders.

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At a glance

The Earth Is Us: Forging a New Relationship continues through October 29 at the Priscilla R. Tyson Cultural Arts Center, 139 W. Main St. Hours: Mondays 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m 22:00 O’clock; 9am to 4pm and 7pm to 10pm Tuesday to Thursday; Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Call 614-645-7047 or visit www.culturalartscenteronline.org.

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