Biophilia: About the Artists
Learn about the artists and their work featured in the Biophilia exhibit at Ford House.
Biophilia: Love of Life
Biophilia refers to the love and stewardship of living entities and systems. Edward O. Wilson, a naturalist, biologist, and writer popularized the term in his book: Biophilia, published by Harvard University Press in 1984.*
Given the challenges of climate change, social and environmental injustice, and the pandemic, love, stewardship, and shared responsibility are at the foundations of our collective recovery.
The goal of this exhibition, juried by Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo, is to celebrate visual expressions of our innate human instinct to connect with nature and other living things and highlight our shared responsibility for the health and healing of our social and natural environments. The exhibition of digital prints** and video includes works by 33 artists.
Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo is a designer, educator, writer, and curator on design. His professional work and teaching include publication, interface, and exhibition design, as well as writing about design. Recent publications include Enshrined: Presence + Preservation, a catalog for the exhibition, Enshrined the Art of Mario Moore at the Charles Wright Museum in Detroit, Paul Rand, Modernist Design, and Word+ Image: Swiss Poster Design, 1955-1997.
Additionally, the exhibition includes a short video documenting the Ford House + Lawrence Technological University summer youth design workshop, dedicated to the theme of Biophilia. Summer intern and LTU architecture student, Mackenzie Wilson, led workshops in design processes, 3D modeling, and inflatable sculpture construction.
*An interview with E.O. Wilson on Nova from 2008 can be viewed at: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/conversation-eo-wilson/
**Many of the printed works in this exhibition may be reprinted for sale and/or may be for sale by the artists. If you are interested in purchasing a print, or reaching an exhibiting artist, please contact Sheila Ruen, Director of Education, at email@example.com
Mary Aro — Disrupted
Most often, I paint landscape watercolors on site. While there, I feel part of the natural world; I forget who I am and my other life as I become in tune with the earth and sky, aware of the sounds of birds, wind, and water. I am living inside my painting. After several hours, it is like waking up. I look around me, down at the ground where I sat, and find a bit of debris to bring home. In my studio, I add that small found object to the painting’s lower area, an empty white space below the thin band of earth I painted on site. Then I pack up and leave until I get to come again. Pfeiffer Beach, CA is one of these paintings. Winter works might integrate figures and botanicals, or sticks, rocks, shells etc. from nature that I have collected. Disrupted and Botanicals are examples that tap into my own agency and lack of it. Also, not entered here, are my COVID paintings. During COVID, other people collected crushed cans and tossed wrappers and detritus from the streets of metro Detroit for me, so I could paint what they found and connect with their walks outside. What we discard is a counterpart to all that rich biodiversity in the long narrow landscapes that I capture during the summer.
Zackery Belanger — Entropy 1
The hexagon occurs in myriad ways in nature, usually in large numbers that tile into complex systems. In Entropy 1, the influence of the interior of this simple shape is demonstrated. A silent pulse of sound is created at the center and allowed to evolve within – an expanding circle trapped by six lines and five verticals. The sound moves slowly to convey its visual fluidity, with the entire three minute, twenty-one second piece representing only half a second of propagation. As the system evolves, the energy of the initial pulse spreads inside, its entropy always increasing, and slowly fills the space. The complexity increases and intricate structures emerge, and yet the rotational symmetry of the hexagon is maintained.
Jacklyn Brickman — Exercises in Familiarity
Utilizing various tools such as a measuring tape used in sewing, sketchbook, land survey scope, plastic spoon and test tube, Exercises in Familiarity asks: How does one become familiar with another? Conflating different forms of labor from domestic, artistic, to scientific, Exercises in Familiarity blurs the lines between types of understanding. At the heart of these endeavors is a desire to connect to the surrounding world and its organisms with care and humility; to learn from, engage with and speculate possible livable futures.
Jennifer Bruce — Robin — Even so
The first piece was completed independently of the Biophilia prompt, but I created it with something similar to this concept in mind – “the love and stewardship of living entities and systems.” The forest-nymph “Robin” is meant to symbolize the curiosity and wonder that should accompany and guide our stewardship of the Earth. She is in union with her world and the creatures in it, and nurtures everything around her as she embraces the mystery of nature. The second piece was created in response to a call for COVID-19 related art (all rights still mine). I wanted to convey a message of hope and life in the face of the plague, using florals as a metaphor. Even though we must limit ourselves to protect others (quarantine, wearing masks, etc.), in doing so, we are breathing life back into the world and nature, and breathing in healing.
Amy Deal — Checking Fields — Checking Fields/Helping Dad Harvest Potatoes — Checking Fields/Wildflower Picking
My father loved life. He loved being a farmer. He loved the smell of dirt and plants. Being a farmer’s daughter wasn’t going to define me. My family owns farmland in Ohio and Indiana.
After my father’s recent passing, I found returning to the farm and painting my feelings and nature in an intuitive, abstract manner enabled me to find peace, connection, and balance. The process of painting and reconnecting to nature saved my heart. My father was born into farming. His family turned what was swampland into the most beautiful, dark, silty soil. Cranberry Prairie, OH Never fully loving the farm chores may have helped with my decision that I was NEVER going to stay. I went away to college and moved to the city. Not everyone had that opportunity in my day. My father and the land made it possible. Returning home and losing myself in the land allowed me to experience a full range of emotion, while exploring my feelings. Painting the smells of the dirt, plants, and air of the countryside resulted in deep color, gestural marks, spontaneous brush strokes, and repetitive shapes. Dad was taken too soon. I wish I could share with him how going back to the farm brought me peace. I can see and feel him while I paint. I can see and feel him when I look out on the prairie that he loved and nurtured. Dad always knew I would be drawn back. It’s my home.
Katie Doelle — Up in the Trees
Up In the Trees is about connecting with living things by looking up. There is so much beauty around us, but there are also many spectacular views to be seen above us – colors, shapes, textures, bursts – offering a natural contrast against the sky and a different view of nature. Trees, branches, and leaves take on a different appearance when viewed vertically – shapes and colors are constantly changing – nothing is ever the same. So, stop, look around, and then look up…a new love of living things can be found up in the trees.
Jacqueline Franciosi — Nature Nourished Mind
Nature Nourished Mind is a holistic support for mental wellness that encourages self-care, sharing of journeys with others and connecting with nature. Placed in the heart of a community surrounded by gardens and forests, users feel welcome to take time for to care for their mental health. AI technology reads the users mood or emotion in the lobby and suggests a room rooted in nature. Remedy rooms include the garden room, the plant-based art room, the center reflection pond, and the therapy room overlooking the surrounding forest.
Katerie Gladdys — Crane Fly: Delta 1057
My art practice combines my lived experience of place with the imagery and statistical information of institutional infrastructure that forms the foundation of our everyday lives. In Crane Fly: Delta 1057, I examine nature in the non-place of the airport, in particular the jet way, documenting a brief, but powerful experience between myself and a crane fly as my flight prepares to depart from Birmingham, Alabama. By recording small gestures and interactions, I seek to transmit my own sense of wonder in the ubiquitous, encouraging others to look more closely at what constitutes the ordinary.
Christina Haylett — Spirit Travelers
Spirit Travelers was inspired by Blake, a dog I met at a shelter I volunteer walking dogs at. I love Blake’s wild spirit. He was finally adopted by someone who honored that in him.
Taylor Henegar — Synergy
For this video project, I wanted to focus on the concept of unity. The title, Synergy, is a metaphor for systems of life, from the cells that make up the human body to advanced societies. I wanted to create a piece that focused on the beauty and complexity of the smaller parts of those systems. What is also highlighted is the amount of liveliness in objects that are considered lifeless and rewriting the definition of “a living thing.”
Chad Jensen with Ysabel LeMay — La Petit Blanche & Noir
A Detroit-area native and alumni of CCS, Chad Jensen’s relationship with nature runs parallel to his material selections as well as his development of form and content in his work. A proponent of biophilic design, Jensen created La Petit Blanche & Noir, as an artist collaboration with Ysabel LeMay (Digital Photography) based on the anatomic structure of a flower. Displaying the otherworldly silhouette, Jensen is communicating the relationship of the white and black as an interplay of the dark and light forces of Nature. Jensen further conceptualized the form of the works to directly reference to the anatomic structure of a flower with the pivoting table top signifying the movement of a flower as it bends toward light source for sustenance. Jensen’s Biophilic concepts have expanded to landscape design and engaging outdoor spaces inviting interaction and sensorial experiences in public spaces working closely with The Naples Botanical Gardens and landscape architects. Childhood visits to the DIA and its connection with Versailles enamored Jensen, who later created Chateau & Parc; an homage to the expansive gardens of the Palace of Versailles. This museum exhibited work invites the viewer into an emotionally resonating, tactile interactive presentation of biophilic objects as they ‘walk the grounds’ and imagine being among the flora and fauna. Internationally exhibited, Chad Jensen’s work is a translation of nature to new forms. His recent work includes architecture, large-scale interactive sculpture with an interplay with nature and her elements.
La Petit Blanche & Noir is an artist collaboration with Chad Jensen and Ysabel LeMay based on the anatomic structure of a flower. Launched as a limited edition, Chad Jensen, a master of utilitarian wood sculpture communicated the relationship of the white and black as an interplay of the dark and light forces of nature. The form, a direct reference to the botanical structure of a flower with the pivoting table top signifying the movement of a flower as it bends toward light source for sustenance. References, hailing back to the times of Baroque and Rococo, the photo collage of Ysabel LeMay provide an organic modernity of a contemporary painter, yet expressed entirely through digital photography.
* Producing partner: Thomas Riley Artisans Guild
Sabrina Kliza — Unhelpful Flower Identification Chart
From when art was nothing more than a hobby to me to when it became my life, flowers drew me to draw them. Art became my way to celebrate and appreciate the beautiful plants and flowers which help make life so amazing. It also helps me to connect with nature since my green thumb is a little lacking. The second painting, Unhelpful Flower Identification Chart, is a 24 in x 18 in acrylic and marker painting, which illustrates different types of flowers. However, no helpful information is given on this identification chart. All the flowers are the same color, it is hard to tell their shapes, and there are no names given. It may not be helpful, but at least it looks cool.
Joseph Kovar — The Ocean Waves
The ocean is a place to revitalize and cleanse your inner energy. The crashing of waves at the shore is bringing the positive energy to absorb, then returning back to the sea with the old negative energy to restore.
Robert Maganck — Love is a Rose
For the past year and a half, I’ve been producing illustrations inspired by song lyrics. Each is part of a larger portfolio title, See What I Hear. Of the sixty-plus images I’ve completed many are expressions of human/human and human/environment relationships. The image size of each is 12 x 12 in with a 2 in boarder. The paper size is 16 x 16 in. The giclee prints are numbered and signed (1/33, etc.) in the border below the image.
Jeremy Noonan — Branch from the Tree of Life
I agree with the biophilia hypothesis introduced by Edward O. Wilson in his book, Biophilia, which highlights our instinctual connection with nature and other forms of life. There is a benefit to tending the plants that have positively enhanced the mental and physical well-being of myself and others. I have learned from developing a routine around the maintenance of plants has allowed for introspective moments, stress relief, and creative discovery, offering healing properties. The digital collages I create are from photographs taken of plants grown by my partner Howard, friends, family, and myself. Each specimen plant is placed in a suitable environment with adequate light, water, nutrients, and tended with care. I observe the changes in color, texture, and growth throughout the season with an emphasis on photographing the bounty at peak bloom. The plants utilized in my colleges come from different locations and bloom at different parts of the season. Each motif is photographed individually and digitally collaged to create hyper-real patterns for use in interior spaces. Throughout the history of textile design, botany has been used as a decorative subject matter found in ceremonial garments, architecture, and interior furnishings. I am interested in how my simulations of nature can positively impact those within the built environment.
Savanna Raus-Wuth — Kyoto
It is undeniable that as humans we desire a connection with nature. Each moment spent in nature indulging our need for biophilia allows the soul to be reborn, revitalized, found. From my first memory of hiking in the woods enthralled by fragrant damp leaves and pine sap, I knew I had to propel this feeling of peace that comes from nature to as many people as possible. To weave each moment I spend in nature into the fabric of my life, I paint. I found I am able to share the importance of biophilia to others in this way, too. As a currently practicing commercial interior designer, artist, and nature advocate, I feel the pull to implement biophilia in any crevice of my life and others’ lives that is possible. Creating interior spaces has allowed me to implement biophilia technologies into the interior spaces I design so others can reap the benefits of this important concept. Kyoto emulates biophilia as a landscape but also is painted on reclaimed wood from a local furniture artisan, Hunt and Noyer, allowing the wood grain to complement the literal landscape representation of biophilia, subtly.
Lisa Richter — Lisianthus — Lisianthus II — Peonies
I am captivated by the beauty of flowers. Using a style of the old masters, I develop complicated paintings that begin with an imprimatura, or monochrome underpainting, to establish the values of the painting in light and dark tones. I then build up many layers of oil paint. This process requires a close examination of the intricate color and design found in nature. In this deep dive, nuances of color are revealed and richly developed. I am rewarded with a deeper appreciation of the sensual delights of flowers.
“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.” – Georgia O’Keeffe
Ackeem Salmon — For Hope
Existing in the universe means to be a part of its natural design. This is to be able to live in such a way that allows you to be inlined with your own purpose and self-guidance, yet in harmony with its imbalance. The emotion of hopefulness plays a key role in navigating the world’s duality of life and death, and the beauty of joy and suffering. My work, For Hope, uses bodily gestures along with the growth of a plant in contrast to a butterfly to show, joy, contemplation, and hopefulness.
Bill Schahfer — Smoketree Leaves and Privet Blossoms — Redbud Blossoms — Hydrangeas and Grass Fronds
My entries show the beauty and serenity of a carefully planned and well-tended garden. These photos are the result of countless hours spent researching and selecting plants, preparing the soil, and planting and tending to the plants, bushes, and trees. Throw in good weather and with a little luck you get a calming retreat from the pressures of everyday life.
Jennifer Scheuer — Aspiration/Mullein
My work is based on The Doctrine of Signatures. This is a historical theory that proposes that the world has an order that can be revealed through visual and sensory associations. Thus, plants can inform us how to use them because they look like our bodies (i.e. cloves look like teeth and can relieve a toothache). Elements of this theory of observation can be seen in medicinal and spiritual practices of different cultures and through different periods of history. Our minds seek to make connections, to categorize the familiar and unfamiliar.
Brian Schorn — Plant Tantra — Fire Tantra — Tree Tantra
Tantrics is a series of images made within the digital domain that is created through mathematical algorithms found in sacred geometry and the natural world. Tantric meditation practice involves visualization of oneself as a deity or the inner energy within one’s body. This series, using sacred geometry and the natural world as the object of the visualization, aims to develop imagery for supporting meditation that is rooted in nature. This imagery intends to offer a pathway to the realization of the interconnectedness of all things.
Tim Scott — House, Plants, and Houseplants
My art explores contemporary society’s relationship with the natural world. I’m interested in how we find our place and make meaning in an increasingly complex world, as we constantly change and are changed by our environments. The theme Biophilia makes me think about my place within the larger ecosystem. I live in a city, surrounded by pavement and buildings. My wife and I tend to our backyard garden, mow our lawn, and water our houseplants. Nature is all around us is constrained yet enmeshed ways. As climate change becomes more of an issue, our place in nature feels increasingly precarious. The stakes are high as society reevaluates how we got here and how we can move forward in harmony with nature. Modern life can make it easy to forget our connection to nature, but I hope my houseplants can help me remember humanity’s roots.
Brendan Seyka — Biography
Biography I & II uses collage to synthesize elements of human physiology with plant and insect anatomy to hint at a larger “biography” of life on earth. The overlaying of these anatomies highlights the interconnectivity of the relationships between the man-made and natural worlds, as well as the oft overlooked similarities therein. The human tendency to capitalize on and domesticate nature leads to a lack of consciousness of nature’s true function. As a species, humankind should seek instead to form a better understanding of its impact on natural systems, and a sense of empathy for those with whom it shares a planet and countless other similarities with. By exploring these connections, the work aims to serve as a reminder of the importance of cultivating kinship and symbiosis between humanity and nature, and preserving the natural ecosystems that benefit all of earth.
Erin Short — fármaka me kánnavi I — fármaka me kánnavi II — fármaka me kánnavi III
fármaka me kánnavi is a project that uses the physical appearance, words, and feelings of medical marijuana patients while also using the beauty of the ancient plant through photography and text. Before I became a patient I was very ignorant of anything that had to do with marijuana. Since entering the community as a patient I’ve also worked within a medical marijuana dispensary which led me to research and become more educated on the subject. Knowledge about cannabis is powerful, especially within a country that continually demonizes the plant. Many states have legalized medical marijuana, Michigan in 2008. Cannabis is federally illegal and is classified as a Schedule I drug, the same as LSD and heroin. According to the DEA, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” This scheduling also makes it extremely difficult to get approval for cannabis research, preventing any progress. With so much controversy over a plant that has been used medicinally for thousands of years, my project fármaka me kánnavi is meant to be both inspirational and informational; through research about the plant itself and the stories of patients I discovered my own passion for cannabis and its medicinal benefits. My intention is to share that with you by showing the faces of these everyday people and by giving them a platform to share their stories, struggles, and power that cannabis has brought into their lives.
Haley Stone — Black Rabbit, Black Roses
Despite being very much a “city person,” I have always had a deep connection to non-human life, living in homes full of houseplants and pets. And though our city backyard may be small, my partner and I have worked to make it nature-friendly and biodiverse, drawing in all sorts of birds and pollinators. We even have a stray cat that likes to take refuge in the gardens. In all the hustle and bustle of modern life, it’s nice to connect with the natural world, take in the tiny, often over-looked details, and experience a little sonder. This illustration was inspired by a dream I had about working in our garden and pulling the foliage back to find a small black rabbit. Initially, I illustrated this piece digitally, and then I had it screen printed by ESP in Eastern Market.
Dave Swartz — Mushroom Menagerie
My work is largely inspired by the mysterious mushroom. Part plant, other parts human, and yet in ways some seem completely alien to us. Appearing all around the world, in a diverse expression of color and form. The mushroom is a biological oddity. Thought to have propelled human consciousness from primitive ape to modern man; I explore our relationship to spirituality and creativity through these strange biological oddities. Invoking their otherworldly attributes to express not only their unique place in our biological spectrum, but their consciousness-altering effects. The process of creating these works has taught me about art and its relationship to life. Not taking anything too seriously and holding space for both the present moment and the inevitable change that will occur soon. As the brush creates a new stroke, what was before has been forever transformed into something new. The same is true in nature. My hope is to expand our collective understanding of the mushroom and just how mysterious an entity it is. In doing so, expanding our collective consciousness to explore more about our connection to nature, our world, and what it means to be human.
Laurie Tennent — Clematis Seed Pod
Faced with the diagnosis of breast cancer and prescribed injections of chemicals and radiation and surgery to fight off breast cancer, I was pulled away from my commercial photography business and spent months photographing the nature around me. I was attracted to the beauty and shape of plants and the perfect geometry of their design. My artistic practice was meditative and healing. At the same time my daughter was studying Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. She confirmed I was intuitively gravitating to the specific species that would help my healing. An intrinsic awareness, during the chemical bombardment of my body to heal, I quietly discovered cures that surrounded me and photographed them. Some of which were, mushrooms, that inhibited estrogen production, magnolia, which lowered cortisol levels and aloe which healed radiation wounds.
“She’s actually able to capture the spirit and energetics of plants,” says Sarah Tennent.
Rachel Elise Thomas — Your Eyes Only
Your Eyes Only is a collage animation that revolves around the Black body accepting rest as a priority, rather than a reward. The title also presents the question: exactly who is allowed to view the protagonist in this intimate moment?
Kelsey Merreck Wagner — It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
How can we use ugly materials to make aesthetically pleasing art? How can art contribute to environmental stewardship? What are my responsibilities as an artist and human being? Biophilia drives my creative practice. When I am between academic deadlines and a freshly warped loom, I spend long hours daydreaming about projects and sourcing fibers, often during walks and hikes outside. As I live in the Appalachian region close to Black Mountain College, where textile artist Anni Albers taught, I am continually thinking of the weavings and other artwork she and her students created from recycled and natural materials. During my walks through the forested mountains and streams, my disappointment at seeing trash on the landscape sparked a new idea for a creative piece. Soon I was collecting plastic bags from friends, family, and colleagues to use for weavings in my Loom & Doom series. After choosing a color scheme, planning the design, and warping the loom, I begin by sorting the plastic by color and texture before cutting them into long strips I weave with. The deconstruction of these plastic items and their transformation into art connects me to our planet and helps me advocate for the ecosystem I live in. The process of weaving abandoned mediums into a narrative of human-environment relations points to the complex web of ecology we live in, and acts as a creative intervention against plastic.
Rebecca Zimmerman — A Love Letter to Grass
Grass has always been a fascinating topic for me. It manages to be both unacknowledged and overrated all at once. Like many Americans raised in the suburbia, grass is constant fixture, the expected background. It occupies 30-40 million acres of our country and requires 30 to 60 percent of urban fresh water for us to ensure it stays that way. Despite its huge environmental impact, many people only think of it in its absence. In the interest of putting our resources towards more necessary, native, or edible crops, we should leave it in the past. But I cannot deny that I will miss it dearly. I’ll look at photos and feel nostalgia and think of the Sunday mornings my father spent mowing the lawn. Even now, I find it quite impressive. Just how many blades of grass are out there? If I had better math skills I’d try to find out, but the number would most likely be incomprehensible. I like to think about the detail and individual differences of every blade out there. To put it plainly, I find it fascinating. And I got to thinking about turf one day, how the imitation of grass falls so short of the real deal and I wanted to do better, get as close as I could to replication. This is the first attempt. I need more flexibility, a less heavy medium, thinner blades, a warmer shade of green, etc. Overall, I love grass and I hope to miss it soon.