Artifice of Nature
SEPTEMBER 12, 2015 — DECEMBER 27, 2015
In Artifice of Nature, Susan Beiner’s ceramic installation of hybrid plant forms comes together with the imaginary anatomies of Brian Fleetwood’s jewelry to create new species out of synthetic and organic materials. Artifice of Nature explores the way in which nature is reconstructed, presented, and dissected for human consumption. Acting as naturalists, Susan Beiner and Brian Fleetwood observe and recreate interactions between nature and humanity. In each of their works, they utilize craft-based media to educate others about lived environments.
In Artificial Dissemination, Fleetwood mimics biological communities through systems made up of jewelry and their human hosts, thereby illustrating epistemology—the theory and organization of knowledge. Fleetwood identifies the human body as a habitat through his jewelry pieces that seemingly grow from their wearers like colorful lichens. As part of his ongoing project, Fleetwood debuted a few new pieces inspired by his visit to Houston and the people that he meets along the way. As an artist, he is most interested in the way in which jewelry moves from person to person, and the potential that jewelry has to spread ideas.
Contemporary culture values scientific research and practices that mimic and modify nature, believing that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Often, in opposition to nature and in favor of human need and desire, artifice is the making of something by technical skill, artistry, and ingenuity. Through artifice, scientists and engineers work to improve upon what is found in nature for human pleasure and use.
These improvements are often seen as progress and, yet, in her installation, Synthetic Reality, Susan Beiner questions the ramifications of genetic modification and the production of synthetic materials. The saturated hues of Beiner’s wild and unruly composition distinguish the plants as more than strict representations of naturally occurring plant life. Not ignoring the benefits that genetically modified plants and synthetics provide us, Beiner’s work challenges us to question the long-term effects of exploitation and modification of our natural resources. The luscious assemblage of briery, mutant plant life found in Synthetic Reality is captivating. Though some of the flowers are familiar, having been derived from natural plant species, Beiner’s manipulation of these forms takes us into unknown territories.
Photography by Scott Cartwright