Art, Nature, Culture. Antioch students explore relationship between humans and the rest of nature

Originally posted on December 5, 2010

by Alesia Maltz

The Art, Nature, Culture Class at Antioch University New England transformed the old bookstore space into an art gallery displaying the finest pieces of studio work they created this semester. The opening was Thursday, December 2, and the show was open through Friday.

The students who created this show have been studying the field of environmental art and environmental design. Environmental artists express innovative views of the relationships between humans and the rest of nature. Their approaches range from the land art of Robert Smithson to the ephemeral art of Andy Goldsworthy. A good source of information on environmental art is to be found at Environmental designers explore how to create a more sustainable human-built environment.

Antioch University New England artists have chosen themes related to their current research concentrations, and their artwork expresses concepts they’ve learned in their science and other classes. Our artists have shared interests in the perceptions of other animals, place, intergenerational relations, trees, found materials, and color theory. The Antioch artists include:

Rebecca Clark. Rebecca is a conservation biologist interested in how art helps us explore the perceptions and experiences of other creatures. She says” “Have you ever tried to imagine the world from the perspective of a bee?” Her art work is inspired by the artist Lynn Hull, who creates environmental art that other species would be attracted to, as well as scientists like Niko Tinbergen, Karl von Firsch, and Temple Gradin. Rebecca created a set of experiments to see and imagine the worlds of other animals through the mediums of painting, sketching, and sculpture . For example, Happy as a Clam draws on her field research on Cape Cod and explores the ideal environment for growing conditions of soft-shelled clams.

Emily Davis. Emily is addressing several themes: placelessness, human restoration, and a sense of belonging. She asks, “Where do you belong?” and challenges people to find what they respect about the places where they belong. Emily works with found material, moving beyond the values of “reuse, reduce, and recycle” to “research, reduce, resist, recognize, revel, read, reuse, repair, refurbish, refine, recover, reclaim, redistribute, review, recycle, recharge, renew, retrofit, and remember.” She is creating beautiful envelopes and glassware from recycled materials. She is also researching her new home of Keene, and is inspired to design a deck of cards that will introduce people to the Keene community.

Alexis Doshas. Alexis is an accomplished photographer, but in this class she took the challenge to break out the two dimensional framework into three dimensional, sculptural work. Alexis has created poignant sculptures that she says, “include elements of irony, whimsy, bittersweet, and comedy, which I use to disarm the viewer.” Her work examines the interactions between natural design and human concepts and is inspired by the writer Wendell Berry.

Stephanie Goggin.Stephanie is interested in the phenomenological experiences of infants and their experience of water animals. Stephanie works at the intersection of art and craft. She has created a series of useful textile crafts for babies. They revolve around the themes of sea turtles and water, and express the textures and colors of water. She says, “Art can be beautiful, dangerous, uplifting or dreary….For me, art is a way to bring beauty to the practical.”

Andrew Hays. Andrew is interested in systems theory, and is focusing on the circulatory system. He’s exploring recurrent patterns that show up in many different natural forms, and contrasting the circulatory system in the human body, trees and the water cycle. Andrew is also interested in color theory, especially how black influences the color of different media.

Michael Metivier. Michael has been exploring what it means to come to terms with revelations in one’s own history. He has written a series of poems on “witness trees,” a concept he embraced in his landscape class. What does it mean to witness, to be silent and “pass,” to come to know one’s ancestors in an unexpected way, and to speak the truth?  His poem “Atavus” represents his style and insight.

Heather Ruggiero. Heather is reacquainting herself with her ancestral home in Vermont. She shares with the Impressionists the desire to capture subtle changes in the colors and textures of forests. An accomplished watercolor painter, Heather has been experimenting with watercolor collage to capture moments in the Northern Forest. She is experimenting with the way watercolors interact with highly textured paper.

Joshua Shawver. Josh comes with experience in costume design, and has been playing with the qualities of tree bark. He draws upon metaphors between tree bark and fabric, and recreates the functional qualities of birch bark with fabric textures. Josh’s whimsical pieces mimic objects in nature, what he calls, “an arborial connection of fabric and nature.”

Anne Stilts. Annie inherited tubes of acrylic paint from her grandmother and was inspired to create  knife and palate pieces on tile. Her highly textured studies express her concerns about the beauty of found materials that we are so quick to toss. Annie’s highly textured, richly colored expressive experiments have brought Annie to a place where she feels she is creating authentic art.


Bio: Alesia Maltz, Ph.D., is a core faculty member of the Environmental Studies Doctoral Program at Antioch University New England. She has served for a number of years as a member of Whole Terrain’s Editorial Board.


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