At the BBG, local artist Madeline Schwartzman is ready for her close-up with Mother Nature


Madeline Schwartzman’s “Face Nature” exhibit runs January 15–February 25 at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. Photo courtesy BBG

STOCKBRIDGE — Long earlier than the pandemic started, Madeline Schwartzman had grown more and more pissed off by the accessibility to nature in misery by the restricted lens of social media. Watching the Amazon burn, from her residence in New England, elicited a sense she likens to an “incapacity to do anything [to help] and the ability to just veer away, click on something else,” the Berkshire-based artist informed The Edge. Schwartzman quickly seized the alternative to actually face nature, up shut and personally, by a sequence of unconventional self-portraits. Via daring and intimate immersion in her local environment, she remedied her gnawing inaction. The apply finally impressed her most up-to-date physique of labor, “Face Nature,” which will likely be on exhibit at Berkshire Botanical Garden’s Leonhardt Galleries January 15–February 25.

“It’s a spectacular learning process … when you stop looking at nature from a distance and bring it close to your face,” Schwartzman defined of her expertise showing in such shut proximity to vegetation. Her distinctive experimental artwork apply options installations on the human physique that kind uncanny hybrids and current a automobile for mutual subjectivity. At its core, the mission has reciprocal advantages for artist and viewer alike: “By changing the way I dealt with nature, I could bring it to others,” mentioned the self-described backpacker, hiker, and collector-of-things.

From Madeline Schwartzman’s “Face Nature” exhibit. Photo courtesy BBG

Enter the pandemic, which afforded Schwartzman, after she relocated from Brooklyn to the Berkshires, way more entry to outside area. This, in flip, “totally bumped up” her inventive course of. “[Spending time outdoors became] super ritualized and incredibly helpful,” she mentioned, noting the cathartic energy of nature. A look at her pictures reveals the artist carrying proof of all the seasons — from star-shaped mountain laurel blossoms and purple, curly kale to ochre-hued gingko leaves and the fiery purple of the invasive winged burning bush.

“People naturally relate to the content,” mentioned Schwartzman, who factors to “Face Nature” as a masks of types, which resonates with people at current (made clear from Schwartzman’s 25.2K Instagram followers). And for good motive. “[During] the pandemic, we all had masks, [leaving] only the top half of the face visible … [resulting] in utter shock when you [finally] saw someone’s mouth,” she mentioned.

Above all else, Schwartzman’s purpose is to create mutual subjectivity. She factors to the Anthropocene Epoch (an unofficial unit of geologic time used to explain the most up-to-date interval in Earth’s historical past), marked by the important affect of human exercise on the planet’s local weather and ecosystems. Her apply, by extension, goals to decentralize people by depicting them in live performance with nature.

From Madeline Schwartzman Face Nature
From Madeline Schwartzman’s “Face Nature” exhibit. Photo courtesy BBG

“The 20th-century idea of landscape, the distant view, is not helping us, nor is seeing so much of the disaster [without] recourse,” Schwartzman mentioned. Her private apply depicts people and flora intertwined, which, regardless of the two being so intimately linked, is uncommon to see.

For her most present mission, Schwartzman first collected then interfaced with myriad specimens she encountered in the wild — typically taking pictures in the pure world, and at different occasions indoors. In every occasion, most of them impromptu, she was conscious of but in addition restricted by the fleeting vitality of the leaves and flowers she plucked, most of which withered and died inside just a few hours. The finish consequence, she mentioned, is “a kind of new awareness, [via] close proximity.” Amidst a chronic interval of ultra-sanitization in our tradition, Schwartzman’s work faucets into additional symbolic which means: people can’t stay, thrive and even exist separate from nature, and welcoming in overseas micro organism really aids in good well being.

The venue for Schwartzman’s upcoming present is significantly apropos. At the begin of the pandemic, certainly one of her then 16-year-old twin daughters, who is obsessed with plant science, reached out to the BBG and secured a volunteer job. On the very first day, she requested her mom and sister to remain for some time “because, you know, it was new.” They had a lot enjoyable that each one three ended up volunteering weekly. There, amongst the gardens, Schwartzman met BBG horticulture employees member Ryan Campbell, who finally noticed Schwartzman’s pictures and recommended the nonprofit may be a superb venue for the work.

Serendipity? Perhaps. Or, extra seemingly, a improbable instance of what occurs when people enterprise outdoor and face nature — in all its sure, unsure glory.

NOTE: An opening reception for Face Nature is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 15, from 3-5 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesdays–Sundays, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Masks are required in the galleries.