July 8, 2012

At L.C. Bates, Romantics run happily amok


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“An Amoral Fable” by Nancy Morgan Barnes

Contributed images

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“Caught” by Veronica Cross

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: L.C. Bates Museum, Route 201, Hinckley WHEN: Through Oct. 15 HOURS: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday; 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday; or by chance or appointment

COST: $3; $1 for those under age 18

INFO: 238-4250; gwh.org

In the context of the natural oddities surrounding it, the piece questions the frontiers between naturalist artifact and art -- while conjuring memories of any weird thing you ever found that struck you as somehow twistedly notable.

Andy Rosen's "The Gardener" is set as a bit of a surprise to any unsuspecting visitor. In a room filled with taxidermy treasures, he presents a life-size wolf with a garden hose unnaturally wrapped around its middle.

In a melodramatic pose and placed as it is, the details such as the hinged leg are key for recognizing the ironic wit that drives it. In this quirky circus, Rosen's sculpture could easily be overlooked -- and that's amazing.

Nancy Morgan Barnes' painting "An Amoral Fable" shows its Romantic nature with gothic alacrity. In this show, fairytales feel more grim than gay. A siren butterfly seems to be getting the best of her slow and steady suitor -- mesmerized in flirtatious frolic -- at the cliff's edge in a storm-inflicted dark industrial landscape.

While Stephen Burt's "Terrible Beauties" is a Conte crayon drawing, it's rendered in an engraving style that we associate with the ancient knowledge contained in old prints, maps and diagrams, when the unknown was delineated by the phrase "here be dragons."

In his densely intense style, Burt presents a nightmarish pair of fantastical giants -- a sea serpent and a giant alligator -- battling in a Pacific landscape inspired by Japanese woodblock prints.

The element of humanity that Burt, Augusta, Droge and others present is our Romantic imagination regarding nature. Another approach is typified by Nina Bohlen's showing us human detritus in her "Downstream" paintings with a straightforwardly moralistic shake of the finger.

But the pieces geared towards the outer edges of human imagination truly get their due in "Humanity in Nature," because mystery and awe are not just tolerated but celebrated.

The dioramas designed and gorgeously painted by American Impressionist Charles Daniel Hubbard (1876-1951) alone make a trip to the L.C. Bates Museum worth the trip any time.

But with "Humanity in Nature" as a stepping stone, all that Romantic/gothic/Victorian stuff suddenly doesn't seem so weird or so distant from what we are now.

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:



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Additional Photos

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“The Gardener” by Andy Rosen

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“Terrible Beauties” by Stephen Burt


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