Downtown Gallery goes ‘All Natural’

Courtesy+of+Lizbeth+Price
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Downtown Gallery goes ‘All Natural’

Courtesy of Lizbeth Price

Courtesy of Lizbeth Price

Courtesy of Lizbeth Price

Courtesy of Lizbeth Price

by Danny Dyer, Staff Writer

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The San Diego State Downtown Gallery ushered in one of its most ambitious art exhibits to date on Thursday, April 20.

“All Natural” is a poignant display of just how creatively limber artists can be when faced with the constraint of being allowed to only use natural materials in their pieces.

The brainchild of the gallery, director Chantel Paul, the overall project aims to incorporate every fathomable terrain of the natural world through diverse channels of art.

“With this exhibition we are going from mountainous and desert landscapes to the ocean, in terms of imagery and process,” Paul said. “It is very rooted and when you see the works, everything has this sort of natural tonality with colors and concepts that you would see in nature.”

What emerged from this idea is a vibrant concoction of organic materials, artistic mediums and a healthy underlying notion of renewability.

The roster of hand-picked artists is as talent-riddled as it is all-encompassing in variety.

For instance, Jennifer Ann Bennet, School of Art & Design alumni, infuses her usage of encaustic wax with plucked branches and stems to formulate panels such as “Branch and Brine,” an entanglement of floral twigs that appear to be drowning in an oozy structure of creamy wax.

Beautifully contrasting this are works done by Roman De Salvo, a sculptor who was compelled to etch finite trails upon small rocks to mimic landscapes of rugged mountainsides.

Other artists vocalized the challenges with which they had to grapple due to the limited resources available.

This was particularly difficult for John Oliver Lewis, a ceramic specialist and acrylic painter who had to prance around the usage of synthetic materials.

He unearthed a solution through extensive research in chemistry, ultimately recognizing that he had to create a firing process that would permit the clay to collect and retain pigmentation while simultaneously using natural minerals that would actually conjoin with the clay.

“Throughout many tests, I arrived at a process that was successful,” Lewis said. “This challenge – and it has been a true challenge – has really expanded my practice, as the research conducted will continue to be incorporated into my work. I really appreciate the opportunity to be pulled out of my comfort zone as an artist and Chantel’s innovative approach to this exhibition has done just that.”

While Paul’s project requires these artists to exercise a striking sense of unorthodoxy, it also called upon each artist to voice a relevant meaning behind their respective works.

Photo-artist Meghann Riepenhoff may be one of the most effective at this, given her pieces’ jab at the human trend of trying to differentiate ourselves from our natural ecosphere.

“By working directly in the landscape and with materials that are of the landscape, I aim to point to the simple truth that we are deeply and inherently connected to that which surrounds us,” Riepenhoff said.

“All Natural” is open to the public between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Monday. The gallery is closed weekly on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This exhibit will close on Sunday, July 16 to make room for future exhibits.

The exhibition and events are sponsored by the School of Art + Design, the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, and Arts Alive SDSU.

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