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Artist’s Talk by Kimberley Hart at Mixed Greens Gallery, NYC

On Saturday December 12, 2009, New York artist Kimberley Hart gave a talk about her recent exhibition Scout at Mixed Greens in Chelsea. The event was co-sponsored by ecoartspace and NYFA.


The works in Scout contemplate specific themes surrounding self-sufficiency, sustainability, observation, labor, cultivation, exploration, defense and tenacity.


Before mentioning any of the artworks in the show, Kimberley began by explaining that her new body of work came out of major life changes involving food and her interest around issues of agricultural sustainability. In the past few years, in an effort to eat healthy locally grown foods, she decided to give up all convenience foods and made a conscious effort to eat mostly organic foods. Kimberley feels that to a large part – many current environmental problems are due to our culture’s worship of convenience. To confront this dependence, Kimberley gave up packaged foods, ate strictly whole foods and eventually consumed only local and sustainably farmed food. She instituted a “no plastic” rule in her home which began with giving up bottled water and proceeded to take out containers, plastic bags and all plastic packaging.


Kimberley was influenced by reading many current popular books on the food revolution such as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma which led her towards living a more sustainable life. She started urban homesteading, canning, composting, and cutting garbage down to one small bag a week. She joined a CSA, bought only grass fed, pastured meats and stopped eating out or ordering take-out. She is striving to have as small of a footprint as possible and is giving serious thought to starting a farm on a former cattle ranch in the South. This passion about food, sustainability, farming, and stewardship, led Kimberley to meet various people involved with permaculture and the transition movement, environmentalists and social justice advocates. She feels that as an artist she is coming from a different place but can potentially end up with similar and interrelated solutions.


In order to create this new show, Kimberley spent time contemplating a way to integrate her new outlook on life and focus on sustainability and self-sufficiency into her artwork. She decided to continue utilizing narrative and allegory as in her past bodies of work. Through drawing and sculpture, she exposes her alter ego represented as a mischievous, irreverent young girl who is self-reliant but more vulnerable and suspicious than in years past. Though noticeably absent from the work, this girl was once full of sparkles and glitter. She is no longer fantasizing about her hunting prowess or setting traps for inappropriate prey. Instead, we find her hunkered down in an austere outpost with few essentials and a concern for an unknown adversary. There are vestiges of a carefree girlhood, but the tenor has changed—a sense of uncertainty has eroded her daring as she struggles to maintain some bravery in the face of a new, foreboding reality.


The works in the exhibition reveal her alter ego’s surroundings, shelter and possessions. A “bank” holds prized, as well as scavenged, provisions and doubles as a repository for a personal currency and objects to barter in this new world. Beautifully crafted, ominous vultures skulk and spread their wings near a pivotal piece titled, The Death of Sparkle. While Kimberley’s alter ego has proven to be equally prissy and cunning in past exhibitions, she is now overwhelmed by apprehensions and threatened by the malicious marauder responsible for Sparkle’s death.

Fantasy and fine craftsmanship remain hallmarks of her work, but the tone has shifted to reflect a change—both imagined and real—in her environment. There is a marked shift in her alter ego from mischief-maker of the vernal woodlands to a menaced and solitary defender in a dystopic landscape.


“In an allegory of our shared hopes and fears, an itinerant, young heroine and an elusive, predatory force struggle for prominence. Survival for these characters is symbiotic; their lives intertwine in a closed loop of cause and effect where the lonely girl, in the face of a malicious entity and in a degrading environment, maintains an acute sense of optimism through her own perseverance. This dystopian fantasy explores an uncertain future, an existence outside of modern convenience where subsistence is the primary concern. Referencing issues ranging from institutional critique, environmental stewardship, egalitarianism and our shared literary and visual culture, this work of speculative fiction offers a potential outcome to our current socioeconomic crisis.

We are all scouts now.” Kimberley Hart, 2009


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Robert MacFarlane on Richard Long


A Night of Rain Sleeping Place An 8 Day Mountain Walk in Sobaeksan Korea Spring 1993 by Richard Long, 1993 Courtesy Kunstverein Hannover © the artis

There’s a good article by Robert MacFarlane on Richard Long on Tate Etc, the Tate’s magazine, that attempts to see beyond the usual assumptions people make about Long’s work as “romantic” :

“I feel I carry my childhood with me in lots of aspects of my work,” [Long]remarked. “Why stop skimming stones when you grow up?”

Why indeed? It’s a lovely question – innocently seen and innocently phrased. And Long has never stopped skimming stones, artistically speaking. His hundreds of circles – made around the world in stone, sand, wood, grass and footprints – can be imagined as the ripples of these skimmed stones. To my mind, his work is best understood as a set of persistently childish acts: the outcomes of a brilliantly unadulterated being-in-the-world. The word kindergarten was coined in 1840 by the German educationalist Friedrich Froebel (1782–1852). Kindergarten, literally “a children’s garden”: a school or space for early learning. Froebel (less remembered now than Maria Montessori or Rudolf Steiner, for he didn’t lend his name to his method) wanted to create an environment in which children could be childish in the best sense of that word. Banished from his kindergartens was the Gradgrindian sense of the infant as a vessel to be filled with facts. Instead, he fostered an ideal of the child as micronaut – an explorer of the world’s textures, laws and frontiers, who should be left to make his or her own discoveries through unstructured play. Froebel wanted children to “reach out and take the world by the hand, and palpate its natural materials and laws”, as Marina Warner observes in a fine essay on play, “to discover gravity and grace, pliancy and rigidity, to sense harmonies and experience limits”.

A nature-lover and walker from an early age, Froebel had a passion for the patterns of phenomena, and in particular for what he called “the deeper lying unity of natural objects”. It was for this reason that the early Froebelian kindergartens had few figurative toys. Instead of trains, dolls and knights, there were wooden cubes and spheres, coloured squares and circles, pebbles, shells and pick-up-sticks. Children spent their days singing songs and playing games, arranging the pebbles in spirals and circles, balancing blocks and picking up sticks. This open play was, as Froebel imagined it, the means by which “the child became aware of itself, and its place within the universe”.

Long is a childish artist in the Froebelian sense, and the wild world is his kindergarten. When Clarrie Wallis, curator of the new Tate exhibition, observes that his work is about his “own physical engagement, exploring the order of the universe and nature’s elemental forces… about measuring the world against ourselves”, she could be describing the Froebelian method. For more than 40 years Long has been using his moving body to explore limits, sense harmonies and apprehend balance and scale. His materials and his vocabulary have always been uncomplicated and childish. “I am content with the vocabulary of universal and common means,” he wrote quietly in 1982, “walking, placing, stones, sticks, water, circles, lines, days, nights, roads.” Again in 1985: “My pleasure is in walking, lifting, placing, carrying, throwing, marking.” In 1968 he showed a sculpture of sticks cut from trees along the Avon and laid end to end in lines on the gallery floor. Five, six, pick up sticks. Seven, eight, lay them straight.

It is the play of “the solemn child”, as MacFarlane says. Read the whole article on Tate Etc’s website.

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