Leaning on Nature
The Mitchell Museum
Cedarhurst Center for the Arts
Linking human and non-human life with ecology and the environment through art is the work I do.  At issue are both human dependence on the natural environment and our exploitation of it.   I seek to unground our sense of entitlement, security, knowledge, and futurity on earth.  Working with multiple but related series, I examine the relationships between nature, culture, and technology.  My focus is the Anthropocene-the age of mankind - and the false nature/culture dichotomy.  
The installation Botanica absentia is a futuristic museum depository or memorial to lost tree species, set seventy years in the future after climate change has forced most living organisms, including humans, other animals, and plants, into either mutation or extinction.  Seventy-two stainless steel tags --similar to dog tags or botanical garden markers-- are hung in a grid configuration reminiscent of grave markers.  Embossed on each tag are both the common and botanical name of a currently endangered species of tree.  These documentary objects serve as memento mori (Latin, remember death) warnings and elegy.
Suspended overhead, a massive, aluminum/chrome replica tree limb from the ‘now’ extinct Eastern redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) stretches across a blackened wall.  Facsimiles of its distinctive seed pods - replacements now fabricated from laser cut, dichroic Plexiglas - cover its lower surface.  Clusters of pods appear mirrored, transparent, and iridescent simultaneously as they dangle and move, catching light and throwing spectral flashes of color everywhere.  Nearby, a solitary image of the ‘last’ remaining redbud tree is archived as a luminescent-dye print on aluminum.  With a holographic vinyl floor directly below, these alluring materials propose a disturbing future and somber question for now:  do we have the potential to avoid this loss? 
Studio Window:  Disaster Series uses a vivid painting/drawing mix to show scenes of destruction by nature with climate change as the propellent.  Lightening, floods, tornados, fires, and tsunamis are among the disasters viewed metaphorically through my studio window, with insects as the ultimate sole survivors, bridging exterior and interior spaces.  Quirky and nervous graphite lines are drawn using the blind-contour technique; these combine with hyper-real watercolor scenes and a varied display of drawing styles (Consternation, Illumination, Conflagration, Rampant, Slow Roast, Oscillation, Enervation PM, and Enervation AM).  
Surveillance Series looks at the enmeshed state of nature and technology today.  Tangle, a monumental drawing, along with mixed-media works (Darkwoods, Link, Merge, Amplify) submerge and entwine the apparatus of surveillance (cameras/cables) within the landscape.  
The Space Between Series questions how to see nature, now that the virtual world has become more real than reality for so many.   Nature experienced through the digital filter of the camera is the source for my 32-foot-long wall installation of round images (oil and mixed-media on canvas), with 30 tondos ranging in diameter from a minute scale of 5” to a massive 3’.  Each individual tondo has a soft-focus background, a distinctive iteration of circular patterns capturing the spaces between branches, twigs, trees, clouds, and rocks - tell-tale signs a lens has intervened.  These could be views through a microscope of amoebas, bacteria, cells, viruses or other organic forms.  Just as easily, we could be looking through a telescope at macro forms in the vast cosmos of outer space.  Using the round format of the tondo (Italian: rotondo-round) also suggests views through lenses, portholes and other viewing devices.  Removed from their source once again, now through paint, these images of nature transform into visual abstractions.  Another six rectangular and square oil paintings complete the series (Searching for Exhale, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Redbud ll, Self-Portrait as Cherry Tree, Arch City, and Quiver).  Suspended 14’ from the ceiling, my laser-cut paper sculpture, Link, literally derives its design from the spaces between tree branches in The Space Between paintings.  Hundreds of paper shapes created when Link was laser-cut are arranged on the floor as another tondo.
My research speculates and questions human existence and survival as part of nature, as it couples with an experimental creative practice. 
Margaret Keller
Leaning on Nature has been extended through July 19, 2020
Video available on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyJs3LDBxKI