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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Patricia Johanson lecture at HVCC

Patricia Johanson, one of the many internationally-known artists who live in the region, gave a fascinating talk at Hudson Valley Community College on Wednesday, and a good crowd of students and local artists were in attendance. (That's Johanson at right.)

The 2008 Stephen L. Hyatt Memorial Lecture focused on Johanson's astonishing environmental projects, quite a few of which have been realized in places as far flung as California, Utah and the Brazilian rainforest.

With a background that includes a serious and successful early career as an abstract artist and extensive knowledge of botany, landscape design, and water treatment, Johanson combines an impressive array of concerns into the creation of large-scale public works projects that function as eco-parks, restore wetlands, treat raw sewage, co-exist with industrial sites, and - oh yeah - are also massive works of art.

Derived primarily from drawings produced during a remarkably fecund period of brainstorming in the 1960s (that's one above), her ideas take shape through extensive research and collaboration with planners and engineers. The projects then get worked through as newly made drawings (that's one at right) and result in complex sculptural installations that can incorporate extensive plantings as well as industrial plants, but appear to be fun-filled environmental parks for people to enjoy (see photo below).

Here are some quotes from her talk:

It's not about my art - my art is just the framework ... for these ecological communities.

It's all about strategy.

Any way a person wants to look at a work of art and anything they see in it is important and true.

[This is what I'm looking for:] What's the truth of each particular place?

What is the work of art becoming?

There's a lot of art, but there's also a lot of life, and the colors of both work together.

[That purple is created by] nature color mixing with art color on-site.

There's nothing intrinsically bad out there.

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