This month, an art exhibition at Baltimore Woods Nature Center in Marcellus doesn't showcase the work of esteemed photographers or classically-trained painters. The exhibit features the work of students from area schools, specially chosen for display.
In the early 1890s, Claude Monet painted haystacks in Giverny, France, for nearly a year -- 25 canvases. And there's a reason for that. Nature can produce dramatic variations in light and color, depth and detail. It’s inspiring and it’s captured the imaginations of artists for hundreds of years.
In short, nature lends itself to art.
“Baltimore Woods is all about connecting people to nature. And so art has always been a way that people have remarked on nature, reflected on nature and voiced their opinions on nature,” said Karen Jean Smith, gallery coordinator at Baltimore Woods. “So this is just a very appropriate thing for us to do here.”
The center focuses on place-based education: hands-on classes, nature walks, and other participatory events. Their team of full-time staff and volunteers aims to cultivate appreciation for nature, and on this foggy May day they’re doing that with a special art exhibition.
Over the course of the school year, area art teachers pay close attention to student art. Only the best pieces are chosen to be displayed in this nature-inspired exhibit.
“The teachers actually get to pick the students who are going to show their work here,” Smith said. “It has to be nature-themed, but it can be any media that we can either put in the glass case or hang on the walls.”
This is the sixth year student artwork has been displayed at Baltimore Woods. The walls and case that Smith describes are covered in work – paintings, drawings, prints, photography, graphic design and pottery.
After a brief introduction, the awards ceremony begins. Student work from 15 schools in five districts is on view today. Not all of the student artists are in attendance, but many are. Some, like Riley McConochy of Skaneateles High School, have an entire entourage.
“I saw a lightbulb but I wanted something more than that – I didn’t just want it to be a lightbulb,” McConochy said. “So then I wanted to do something with nature and wild, so that’s why my piece is called wild light.”
McConochy’s work is a print, one of a few on display, depicting a black light bulb full of steep mountain tops on stark white paper.
Prints like this one are a little tricky. They require the artist to carve away at a surface, usually wood or linoleum, and keep in mind that the parts carved away won’t hold ink when pressed up against a sheet of paper. After the block is carved and placed against paper, it makes its way through a printing press by way of a large wheel turned slowly and steadily. It’s a process Onondaga Junior Senior High School student Lauren Moore is also familiar with.
“It was a new project that we were working on and it was kind of confusing in the beginning,” Moore said.
Moore’s piece is called “Evening Leaves.” It’s vibrant. The work is made up of bright blues, green leaves and a twisting brown tree trunk. Having a combination of three different colors on one print typically means a few extra steps in the process.
“Mine was kind of hard since it had a lot of detail in it. The leaves took a lot of time. And this was actually my last print I did. It was the best one that came out, which was lucky.”
Students like Moore may not plan on continuing their artistic endeavors. They could take the art classes required of them for high school graduation and stop there. And that’s okay. Smith, the gallery coordinator, is happy to be the one to introduce them to the art scene.
“This is one of those exhibits too where when people walk in-- who are acquainted with our exhibits -- they’ll walk in and they’ll say ‘Oh, it’s the student exhibit. I love this one!’” she said.
You can view the exhibit, featuring work from the Auburn, Marcellus, Onondaga, Skaneateles and West Genesee school districts, through the end of the month during regular gallery hours.