Review of “In Nature” by Carl Mellor
“In Nature,” on display at the Edgewood Gallery, covers a lot of ground. It provides a gallery premiere for the “Amazing Women Plate Series,” a project created by Jen Gandee and Lucie Wellner. The exhibition alsot presents a range of Gandee’s ceramic works, as well as Wellner’s watercolors and mixed-media solar prints. And the show encompasses jewelry and miniature boxes made by Magdeleine Wellner.
First, the plate series, a collaboration between Wellner and Gandee, references both contemporary figures like the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg and female activists, authors and artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. Ginsberg’s image appears on a plate, along with a quote from the U.S. Supreme Court Justice: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
Other plates depict Mother Jones, a legendary labor organizer; Dolores Huerta, a pivotal figure in the United Farm Workers; and Zora Neale Houston, an author, filmmaker and anthropologist. Syracusan Adelaide Alsop Robineau, an influential potter and member of the Arts and Crafts Movement, is also part of the series. Images of Robineau, and her best-known artwork, the Scarab Vase, appear on a plate.
The series extends from Maria Ressa, winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize and author of the book “How to Stand Up to a Dictator: The Fight for Our Future,” to Zitkala Sa, a writer, editor and educator of Yankton Dakota ancestry. She wrote for Harper’s Monthly and Atlantic Monthly and was co-founder of the National Council for American Indians in 1926. The group advocated for the rights of indigenous people.
Another plate depicts poets Amanda Gorman and Phillis Wheatley. Gorman read the poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 inauguration of President Joseph Biden. Wheatley is believed to be the first African-American woman to author a book of poetry; although she was an enslaved person, she was one of the best known poets of her time in the United States.
“In Nature” presents a variety of other artworks including Wellner’s watercolors inspired by the E.M. Mills Rose Garden at Thornden Park. Viewers will see lush depictions of red roses and the best of these works, ” About Face.” That piece stands out because of its subtle treatment of light and use of a blue background.
The artist pays homage to a field behind the her Pompey home with mixed-media solar prints portraying both Monarch butterflies and the milkweed plants that are the only food source for the insects. The prints view the butterflies’ habitat in depth, exploring their dependence on the plants.
Several of Gandee’s ceramic pieces have miniature landscape imagery inscribed on them. Thus, a large bowl has fern imagery on its exterior, while a second bowl is decorated with images of vines. The artist also has vases and cups on display at Edgewood.
Gandee’s involvement with ceramics extends beyond her own expertise and creative energy. In her gallery, located in Fabius, she’s hosted various exhibits showcasing ceramic work. During July, the gallery presented the annual group show of the Independent Potters of Central New York.
Finally, the Edgewood exhibition displays earrings, necklaces, miniature boxes and other pieces created by Magdeleine Wellner. She works primarily with woven glass seed beads. Some of her work has a figurative element and depicts butterflies.
“In Nature” works with various media, with colorful depictions of plants and insects, and with the informational network of the “Amazing Women Plate Series.” Yet, the exhibit isn’t disorganized or difficult to follow. It’s interesting both in terms of visual appeal and its internal narrative.
The show is well worth a visit to the Edgewood Gallery, 216 Tecumseh Rd., where it’s on display through August 12. The gallery is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call 315-445-8111 or access edgewoodartandframe.com.
Carl Mellor covered visual arts for the Syracuse New Times from 1994 through 2019. He continues to write about exhibitions and artists in the Syracuse area.