The Art of Exploration · a diary of day trips, natural places, and miscellaneous adventures

Woodcut at the Garden

Sunday, February 10th, 2013 in Illinois
Woodcut at the Garden

The weather today can only be described as wall-to-wall ICK with an occasional outbreak of YUCK and BLECH. The temperature climbed into the forties but it felt more like the twenties. A fine mist that began early in the morning had, by noon, matured into a steady downpour.

At first, the rain froze as it hit cold surfaces—sidewalks, roads, downspouts—forming a sleek glaze over everything. Icicles grew from the undersides of gutters and tree limbs like great translucent stalactites. Every now and then, a large sliver of dangling ice would fracture under its own weight and crash to the ground.

Eventually, the rain warmed the pavement enough to transform the ice and snow into slop and slush. After briefly examining the wintery deterioration taking place outside my living room window, I decided hiking was out of the question. Whatever I was going to do for the day would have to be done indoors. I decided a trip to Chicago Botanic Garden was my best option. There, I could wander their three heated greenhouses, work on my macro photography and browse their (indoor) winter exhibits.

As it turns out, I picked a good time to visit the gardens. The parking lot was almost empty, the greenhouses were quiet and there were two interesting exhibits to view. The first exhibit was Woodcut, a display of works by Bryan Nash Gill, an sculptor and printer from New Hartfort, Connecticut. The exhibit included a collection of prints the artist made by inking the cross-section of a tree and pressing paper over the surface to create a print. The resulting images were as unique as a finger-prints, each revealing detailed impressions of rings, scars, bark and even bits of mushrooms growing on the exterior of the tree.

Lest you get upset on behalf of the trees that were sawn into chunks to produce this artwork, I should point out that the trunk splices Bryan Nash Gill uses to create his prints are salvaged from trees that had already been cut down. For more information about Bryan Nash Gill’s work and to see how he makes his prints, check out this video.

The second exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Gardens was a series of photographs by Miles Lowry entitled Lost & Found: Remnants of Savannas and Old-Growth Forests. In this exhibit, Miles Lowry presents images that capture what remains of the forests and savannas that once blanketed the Eastern united States.

For more than ten years, Lowry has been photographing restored savannas and old-growth forests. His stunning black-and-white prints are presented in single or multi-framed panoramas that give viewers a unique glimpse of these disappearing landscapes.

Anyway, after several hours spent admiring wonderful works of art, it was time to face the horrible weather and set off for home. You’d never know it was a dreadful winter day from this view of the sheltered courtyard at the botanic garden. But believe me, it was wretched.

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