• Michelle Segre, Opuntia, 2002.

  • UnNaturally, installation view, H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, 2003.

  • Gregory Crewdson, Untitled (Flower Pile), 2001.

  • UnNaturally, installation view, H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, 2003.

  • UnNaturally, installation view, H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, 2003.

  • Jacci Den Hartog, Garden for Walking Through Water, 1999.

Curated by Mary-Kay Lombino

UnNaturally features works by fifteen artists who employ artificial materials to create simulations of nature, exploring the ways in which the boundaries between nature and culture are sometimes blurred, and raising provocative questions about our mediated environment. These works play on our nostalgia for an idealized pre-industrial past in which man and nature coexisted harmoniously in an unspoiled landscape, the same nostalgia that has given rise to constructed environments in malls, zoos, and other themed “entertainment destinations” where nature is tamed and packaged for consumer use.

Through an art of studied verisimilitude, impressive craftsmanship, and occasional deadpan use of irony, the artists presented here suggest that the natural world can be reproduced with man-made materials just like any other mass-produced commercial product. Gregory Crewdson photographs his own meticulously constructed scenes that imitate natural settings, challenging viewers to question the notion of “reality.” Steel, epoxy, plaster, polymer, and other “unnatural” materials are transformed into surrogates for nature by such sculptors
 as Jason Middlebrook, Roxy Paine, and Michelle Segre, making us ask whether such “new-and-improved” stand-ins outweigh the benefits of
the unmediated experience of nature. Other sculptors such as Jacci Den Hartog, Keith Edmier, Michael Pierzynski, and Alyson Shotz blatantly reveal contemporary nature’s artificiality by borrowing from popular culture and theme-park kitsch. A sound piece by Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle imitates the soothing recorded sounds of nature piped into shopping malls and played at home for relaxation. Several of the artists are from Southern California, imparting a Hollywood sensibility to a theme that has occupied many artists in the past several years.



Mary-Kay Lombino

Mary-Kay Lombino is The Emily Hargroves Fisher ‘57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator and Assistant Director of Strategic Planning at The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College where she oversees the contemporary art and photography collections, exhibitions, and publications. Prior to joining the staff at Vassar she served as Curator of Exhibitions at the University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach for six years and Assistant Curator at UCLA Hammer Museum for five years. Her exhibitions include The Polaroid Years: Instant Photography and Experimentation (2013); Utopian Mirage: Social Metaphors in Contemporary Photography and Film (2007); Off the Shelf: New Forms in Contemporary Artists’ Books (2006); Candida Höfer: The Architecture of Absence (2005); UnNaturally (2003), and By Hand: Pattern Precision, and Repetition in Contemporary Drawing (2001). She has also organized solo shows for numerous artists including Marco Maggi, Eirik Johnson, Phil Collins, Ken Price, Euan Macdonald, Bob Knox, Alice Könitz, and Mungo Thomson.

Lombino’s 2013 publication The Polaroid Years (DelMonico Books/Prestel) recently won first place for Outstanding Catalogue from the Association of Art Museum Curators. In 2009, she was selected as one of ten fellows for the prestigious Center for Curatorial Leadership program, a six-month fellowship designed to train and support talented curators in realizing their potential for leadership in the field. Also in 2009 she was one of two recipients of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Curatorial Research Fellowship. In 2006 she was one of ten recipients of the Getty Curatorial Research Fellowship.


touring schedule

Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts
Napa, CA, United States
April 20, 2004 - August 16, 2004

F. Donald Kenney Museum, The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, St. Bonaventure University
St. Bonaventure, NY, United States
February 3, 2004 - March 30, 2004

Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA, United States
November 21, 2003 - January 17, 2004

H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute
Kansas City, MO, United States
September 20, 2003 - October 29, 2003

Contemporary Art Museum, University of South Florida
Tampa, FL, United States
January 18, 2003 - March 15, 2003

NEW YORK, NY 10013
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