The Nature of Art of Nature: A Saint Patrick’s adventure to NBM

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March 17 was a particularly blustery Saint Patrick’s Day, which encouraged conversation over the old St. Pat’s storm superstition. The gale would come a few days later, but on Sunday morning, Uptown Saint John was quiet; only the clatter of the Irish flag outside town hall echoed through the streets. A cluster of smokers stood outside of Brunswick Square, shuddering in the wind. However, just inside the doors, a jovial crowd of young, green-painted, shamrocked faces and their middle-aged, over-tired parents had overrun the main floor waiting for a folk-styled performance of traditional Irish music.

Seeding through the crowd towards the New Brunswick Museum was a task, but through the doors and up to the second level was an event far more appealing to the aesthetically sensitive individual; getting there was worth the struggle.

A collaborative effort has brought student artists into the sphere of a project incorporating NB’s natural beauty and the skills these young artists have honed. On the Nature Trust of New Brunswick’s webpage, the event is described as follows:

“The Nature Trust has formed a unique collaboration with the College of Craft and Design, the University of New Brunswick, New Brunswick Museum and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Their goal is to explore the idea of Nature of ART of Nature. Students from the College and UNB have been invited out to several of the Nature Trust’s scenic preserves to gain inspiration to produce a piece surrounding the theme of ‘Nature of ART of Nature.’”

Needless to say, the gallery (which is moving to the Fredericton campus at the beginning of April) is a baffling example of what the young art community has to offer. The dimly-lit space has a soft, comforting effect. The walls are plastered with a range of photographic techniques from 23 very different artists from the College of Craft and Design in Fredericton.

There are metal-works and plaster sculptures from various students as well as an interesting collage piece under a window frame done by Quispamsis native, Katrina Kierstead. Another artist from the Kennebecasis Valley, Luke Perrin, has a blown up and very bleak photograph of a foggy Pagan Point.

“I really loved the ambiguity and diversity surrounding the project. Everything was very open ended and up to the artist creativity wise. My piece in the show (taken at Pagan Point, St. Andrews, NB) is an exploration of the mundane that often surrounds the east coast and Bay of Fundy; a thin layer of fog over a very simple and balanced frame,” says Perrin, “The reason people should go check the show out is simple: the New Brunswick Nature Trust is one of our strongest voices for conservation in NB. Not only are they a strong proponent of saving our natural ecosystems, furthermore, they care about hearing from you! Witnessing/interacting with the Nature Trust sites gives a sense of encouragement that there are people here in this province who care deeply about the land and our effect on it.”

New Maryland native, Alexandra Keely, had the piece with the most drawing power. Standing in the gallery, it was obvious that everyone passing through made it a point to closely inspect the blue, sheep’s wool dress in the back corner. A tribute to Belding’s Reef in Chance Harbour, the dress is the culmination of ocean water, white-caps and beach stones. As a textile artist, she usually works with two-dimensional pieces, but working against numbing thumbs (due to the constancy of her work) through the month of October, she completed the piece for the gallery. When asked why she decided to use wool for the dress, she simply replied: “There’s just something about felt.”

The gallery will be open until March 30 and is well worth the trip to see not only the unbelievable abilities of NB based artists, but the fundamental reasons behind what makes living on the East Coast magnificent. Surrounded by natural beauty, it’s easy to take our environment for granted, but in these pieces presented by these students, it’s captured in the essence of natural brilliance.