Artifice of Nature
September 12, 2015 — December 27, 2015
In the Artist Hall
Friday, September 18, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
The evening will also feature the openings of Ann Morton: What Happened Today?/ The Collective Cover Project and Wendy Maruyama: The wildLIFE Project, as well as open studios by HCCC’s current resident artists.
This fall, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) presents Artifice of Nature, a modern-day Garden of Earthly Delights. Susan Beiner’s ceramic installation of hybrid plant forms comes together with the imaginary anatomies of Brian Fleetwood’s jewelry to create new species out of synthetic and organic materials. Artifice of Nature explores the way in which nature is reconstructed, presented, and dissected for human consumption. Acting as naturalists, Susan Beiner and Brian Fleetwood observe and recreate interactions between nature and humanity. In each of their works, they utilize craft-based media to educate others about lived environments.
In Artificial Dissemination, Fleetwood mimics biological communities through systems made up of jewelry and their human hosts, thereby illustrating epistemology—the theory and organization of knowledge. Fleetwood identifies the human body as a habitat through his jewelry pieces that seemingly grow from their wearers like colorful lichens. As part of his ongoing project, Fleetwood will debut a few new pieces inspired by his visit to Houston and the people that he meets along the way. As an artist, he is most interested in the way in which jewelry moves from person to person, and the potential that jewelry has to spread ideas.
Contemporary culture values scientific research and practices that mimic and modify nature, believing that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Often, in opposition to nature and in favor of human need and desire, artifice is the making of something by technical skill, artistry, and ingenuity. Through artifice, scientists and engineers work to improve upon what is found in nature for human pleasure and use.
These improvements are often seen as progress and, yet, in her installation, Synthetic Reality, Susan Beiner questions the ramifications of genetic modification and the production of synthetic materials. The saturated hues of Beiner’s wild and unruly composition distinguish the plants as more than strict representations of naturally occurring plant life. HCCC Curator Kathryn Hall states, “Not ignoring the benefits that genetically modified plants and synthetics provide us, Beiner’s work challenges us to question the long-term effects of exploitation and modification of our natural resources. The luscious assemblage of briery, mutant plant life found in Synthetic Reality is captivating. Though some of the flowers are familiar, having been derived from natural plant species, Beiner’s manipulation of these forms takes us into unknown territories. ”
About the Artists
Ceramicist Susan Beiner is Associate Professor at the Hergberger School of Design and the Arts at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. In 1993, she received her MFA in Ceramics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and, in 1985, her BFA from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She has exhibited her work in Austria, China, Korea, and the Netherlands in addition to having multiple solo exhibitions in the United States. Beiner has received numerous awards and has participated in residency programs across the globe, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary, and China.
Brian Fleetwood is Assistant Professor of Jewelry and Metalsmithing, Art Foundations at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He received his MFA in Craft and Material Studies in 2014 from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BFA with a focus in jewelry from the Institute of American Indian Arts in 2012. Brian has received multiple fellowships and scholastic accolades, including the 2012 Windgate Fellowship. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally.
Artifice of Nature was curated by HCCC Curator Kathryn Hall.
Above: (1) Susan Beiner, “Synthetic Reality” (detail), 2008. Porcelain, foam, wood panels. Photo by Susan Beiner. (2) Susan Beiner, “Synthetic Reality” (detail), 2008. Porcelain, foam, wood panels. Photo by Susan Beiner. (3) Susan Beiner, “Synthetic Reality,” 2008. Porcelain, foam, wood panels. Photo by Susan Beiner. (4) Brian Fleetwood, Selection from “Artificial Dissemination.” Raw silk, cotton, polyester, wood, rubber, steel, PLA, graphite, ink. Photo by Brian Fleetwood. (5) Brian Fleetwood, Selection from “Artificial Dissemination.” Raw silk, cotton, polyester, wood, rubber, steel, PLA, graphite, ink. Photo by Brian Fleetwood. (6) Brian Fleetwood, Selection from “Artificial Dissemination.” Raw silk, cotton, polyester, wood, rubber, steel, PLA, graphite, ink. Photo by Brian Fleetwood. (7) Brian Fleetwood, Selection from “Artificial Dissemination.” Raw silk, cotton, polyester, wood, rubber, steel, PLA, graphite, ink. Photo by Brian Fleetwood.