The Olana Partnership, Olana State Historic Site, and the Thomas Cole National Historic Site announced today that new landscape art installations by internationally renowned artists will be on view beginning May 2 for the 2021 exhibition season. Artist Jean Shin’s site-specific work, FALLEN, and artist Portia Munson’s Flower Mandala Memento Mori can be seen at Olana State Historic Site, and artists Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood’s site-specific work, The Pollinator Pavilion and Paula Hayes Bird Nesting House and Tree can be viewed at the Thomas Cole Site. All works will be on view from May 2 through October 31.
The outdoor works are launched in anticipation of and are part of the upcoming major collaborative exhibition, “Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment,” opening at both sites on June 12. “Cross Pollination” was created by the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, The Olana Partnership at Olana State Historic Site, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. The exhibition tour is organized by Crystal Bridges.
FALLEN, by artist Jean Shin, memorializes the eastern hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis) that once thrived in the nearby Catskill Mountains. Last year, a 140-year-old hemlock planted by Frederic Church on Olana’s East Lawn died of natural causes despite attempts by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation to save it. Instead of removing the tree entirely, The Olana Partnership commissioned artist Jean Shin to create a site-specific work featuring the hemlock.
FALLEN invites viewers to reflect on this tree’s life and the cultural history of the Hudson Valley region. The work refers to a period during the 19th century when hundreds of thousands of tannin-rich hemlocks were cut down to meet the commercial demands of the leather-making industry. “While reckoning with the devastating consequences of deforestation in local history, the project invites viewers to observe the natural surroundings more closely, witness nature’s struggles, and mourn what we have lost,” says Shin. Widely known for her monumental installations, Shin transforms everyday objects into elegant expressions of identity and community engagement. She has had numerous solo exhibitions and her work has been featured at more than 150 prominent cultural institutions. She lives in Brooklyn and Hurley, NY.
Artist Portia Munson will launch Flower Mandala Memento Mori, an outdoor installation series that honors the loss of bird, animal, and insect life due to human contact. The series addresses themes of environmentalism, ecology, and the stresses that the shifting climate, increased pollution, and industrialization have put on natural places and wildlife. With her meditative, elegiac compositions, Munson links art and science. Four works will be displayed at Olana along the historic carriage roads, including two new pieces, Cardinal and Cecropia Moth. Two other works, Sharp Shinned Hawk and Barred Owl, were previously on view at Chesterwood, the home and studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French in Stockbridge, MA. Portia Munson is a nationally recognized visual artist who works in a range of mediums including photography, painting, sculpture, and installation. She focuses primarily on environmental and cultural themes from a feminist perspective. Munson's work has been shown in major public and private exhibition spaces and she has had more than 20 solo exhibitions. She lives in Catskill, NY.
Internationally renowned artists Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood designed the site-specific artwork titled The Pollinator Pavilion, on view at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. The artists created this interactive sculpture to provide sustenance to pollinators and a place of wonder for human visitors, who may encounter them up close, particularly the ruby-throated hummingbird, an important pollinator and the only hummingbird species native to this region. The open-air, 21 ½ foot high Gothic style pavilion features a living pollinator garden, feeders, original paintings by the artists, and seating for one guest at a time. Designed to attract pollinators and humans to share the same space, the Pavilion creates a radical decontextualization in which individuals can see themselves as part of nature and understand their own capacity to foster an environment of ecological balance. Sherwood and Dion have worked with living animals for years and their approach is to emphasize the animal as an individual that is best appreciated by an actual face-to-face encounter. The presence or absence of pollinators in different moments may illuminate the fragile but open doorways between humans and animals.
The Pollinator Pavilion calls upon the artist Thomas Cole’s (1801-1848) environmental advocacy as well as Martin Johnson Heade’s (1819-1904) series of paintings, The Gems of Brazil (1863-64), which are at the center of the forthcoming exhibition Cross Pollination. Heade’s jewellike and intimate series depicts hummingbirds in their natural habitats and demonstrates relationships within nature and his commitment to close observation of nature, through the intersection of art and science.
Also on view on the grounds at the Thomas Cole Site is a site-specific work by the artist Paula Hayes. Hayes is an internationally shown American visual artist and designer known for creating sculptures that form living artworks. This includes glass terrariums that contain small-scale ecosystems, large-scale gardens, and installations such as Bird Nesting House and Tree that provide new natural habitats. The artist worked with an ornithologist to design a bird nest tree specifically for bluebirds and has carefully installed it at the Thomas Cole Site to provide a safe habitat and shelter for nesting birds. This living artwork requires daily tending and interaction. It is intended to provoke thought and action about our stewardship of and our everyday interactions within the natural world. A major theme in Hayes’ work is the connection of people to the natural environment, and much of her work is about the evolving relationship to growing and maintaining large and small-scale ecosystems.
FALLEN has been generously funded by support to The Olana Partnership from the Novak-Ferber Exhibitions Fund. With additional support by the Faculty Development Fund of Pratt Institute. This exhibition was made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Support for the “Cross Pollination” exhibition and its national tour is provided by Art Bridges. Additional major support is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.
The exhibition is made possible through support from the Terra Foundation for American Art. The exhibition is supported in New York in part by The National Endowment for the Arts, Market New York through I LOVE NY/New York State’s Division of Tourism as part of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and the New York State Legislature; the Robert Lehman Foundation; The Bank of Greene County Charitable Foundation; Greene County Legislature through the County Initiative Program of the Greene County Council on the Arts; The Olana Partnership’s Novak-Ferber Exhibitions Fund, the Kindred Spirits Society of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Charina Foundation, The Stainman Family Foundation, Anne Miller & Stuart Breslow, Kristin Gamble, and Deedee & Barrie Wigmore. Support for the catalogue is provided by Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.
Both Olana and the Thomas Cole Site ask all visitors to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet apart while visiting these outdoor installations. To learn more about the outdoor artworks and the many programs and events happening in conjunction with the installations, please visit OLANA.org and thomascole.org. For more on the upcoming “Cross Pollination” exhibition, visit: https://www.hudsonriverskywalk.org/crosspollination
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