The Radford University Art Museum opened its first public exhibitions of the fall semester Wednesday: “Leaves of the Tree” and “More Leaves of the Tree.”
The two exhibitions will afford audiences the opportunity to delight in the wonders of leaves and their role in our environment. The exhibitions’ overlapping themes will emphasize environmentally-conscious art, specifically works featuring foliage. Shown in two separate galleries across campus, both exhibitions will run through Nov. 7, 2020.
“Leaves of the Tree” is on display at the Art Museum in the Covington Center and features original works from local artists Charlie Brouwer and Jennifer L. Hand. The exhibition’s centerpiece is a 23-foot-high tree trunk fabricated from slab wood surrounded by hundreds of life-sized suspended leaves sewn from donated fabrics. Brouwer built the trunk while Hand created and installed suspended fabric leaves around it. Various other works by Brouwer and Hand are on display, including wood sculptures, drawings, paintings, video and mixed-media reflecting the theme of leaves as objects of beauty and metaphors for our interconnectedness.
Brouwer is known regionally and internationally for large-scale sculptures featuring ladder forms evoking transcendent aspirations, which are likewise conveyed in his representations of organically soaring trees. His lengthy artistic career includes over 290 exhibitions. For 15 of his 22 years as a member of Radford University’s art faculty, Brouwer taught outdoor classes in environmental sculpture at the Selu Conservancy.
Hand, who is Brouwer’s daughter, teaches art at the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech. She is renowned for her sensitively rendered landscape paintings and mixed media creations. “Leaves of the Tree” offers a delightful overview of recent work by this remarkably accomplished father and daughter duo.
“More Leaves of the Tree” is a juried exhibition that will be on display at the Radford University Art Museum at 214 Tyler Ave. It will feature a variety of artists whose works also center on themes of nature and the environment.
The exhibit’s call for entries was open to any artist with works made from leaves, depicting leaves, referencing leaves or exploring leaves through metaphor. Nationally-renowned environmental sculptor Patrick Dougherty serves as juror for the exhibit. Dougherty is a North Carolina-based artist whose work has received numerous prestigious awards and accolades for his art. A book of his works titled “Stickwork” was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2010.
Dougherty’s selection was made from more than 300 entries submitted by 106 artists, including painters, sculptors, photographers, ceramicists, jewelers, mixed-media artists, film animators and a stained-glass maker. Select works are available for purchase.
The two exhibits will appear on opposite ends of Radford University’s campus, and visitors will be encouraged to walk from one gallery to the other via a “Tree Trail,” developed by Radford University’s longtime dendrology instructor John Kell.
The trail will feature various notable trees, including a national champion white basswood, and will meander through a “Leaf Labyrinth” designed by Radford University Professor of Art, Dr. Eloise Philpot. Medical research has shown that a walk in the woods is physically and mentally rejuvenating, and visitors can experience the healing power of leaves for themselves as they traverse between the two exhibits.
The celebration of trees will continue into spring both on campus and throughout the community. Just seven miles south of Radford’s main campus, Radford University’s Selu Conservancy will be the site of plein air tree painting workshops conducted by professional artists, including Roanoke’s Robin Poteet and Connecticut’s Kathryn Myers.
The conservancy will also celebrate the installation of “Hedgerow,” a commissioned sculpture by Charlie Brouwer. Local art teachers from public schools in the City of Radford and surrounding counties will implement online tree-themed projects coordinated under the banner of “Sprigs of the Tree” that will be exhibited at Selu. The outreach initiative is being developed by a team of longtime art educators including Carolee Bondurant, Lou Ann Thompson, Nikki Pynn, John Bowles and Stuart Robinson.