Exploring Student Art at UW Botanic Gardens, Part 2

A wooden three-walled structure with glass panes and a bench
Call Your Mother, an installation at the Center for Urban Horticulture by Rebecca Chernow.

Recently on the blog, we highlighted a new art installation at the Center for Urban Horticulture, created by Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) candidate Connor Walden. However, Walden isn’t the only artist whose work you can see as you walk around the Center. Quite close to Walden’s work, southwest of Goodfellow Grove and hidden in the shadows of the trees, is a wood and glass three-walled structure with a small bench, shown in the image on the left. Vines have started creeping through holes where glass panes have fallen out, but that’s the idea. The work is Call Your Mother by Rebecca Chernow, installed in 2013. Chernow, like Walden, was an MFA candidate studying sculpture when she installed her work. The piece, which is reminiscent of a phone booth, is “meant to be a place to commune with the natural surroundings” and will eventually return to the earth. To learn about other works by Chernow, visit her website.

Step inside the entry of the Douglas Research Conservatory and look up and you will notice a collection of steel and acrylic forms hanging from the ceiling. This piece, Phenomenal Transparency III by Amber Barney-Nivón, was installed in 2015. Barney-Nivón was a Bachelor of Fine Arts student at the time, majoring in 3D4M (3-dimensional Forum, the sculpture program) and minoring in DXARTS (Digital and Experimental Arts). The interlocking rectangles of Phenomenal Transparency III almost camouflage into the ceiling, and that’s not by accident. “This piece aims to deconstruct the modularity of the greenhouse,” Barney-Nivón wrote in her concept statement about the work. The sculpture “uses the building’s features like openness and line to create an illusion of space.”

Interlocking rectilinear forms hanging from the green house ceiling.
Phenomenal Transparency III by Amber Barney-Nivón in the Douglas Research Conservatory.

Look up at the tumbling rectangular forms and your mind tries to make sense of the lines, the space, the depth. “Something I find beautiful is the illusion of pattern where there is no pattern, but only the components of a potential pattern. My brain looks for a pattern and can’t find one, but is content and pleased with this potentiality that hasn’t yet made itself clear – that may never reveal itself,” Barney-Nivón explains. “I wanted to make something that immerses me in the beauty of illusion of pattern and space – the greenhouse with its repetitious line and symmetry; the sculpture with its chaos, illusion, and mystery.” Visit Barney-Nivón’s website for additional images of the piece and to see her other work.

Though it only played during the month of October 2012, I would be remiss if I did not mention Paths II: The Music of Trees. Discussed previously on the blog, this piece was a temporary sound installation at the Washington Park Arboretum by Abby Aresty. Unlike the previous students mentioned, Aresty was not a fine arts student, but a doctoral candidate studying music composition and interested in sound art. The work consisted of speakers set up in seven different locations in the Arboretum and played compositions made from sounds that Aresty had previously recorded while walking through the Arboretum. She described the piece as “a series of sound installations that explores the layers and permutations of acoustic space.” Visit the project’s website to learn more about the piece and sample the sounds used at the different installation sites.

Next time you visit the Center for Urban Horticulture, take some time to explore the art installations on site. Each of the pieces plays off of its surroundings in a unique way, providing places for reflection on our connections with nature, time, and the built environment.

While you’re there, be sure to pop into the Elisabeth C. Miller Library for rotating art exhibits inspired by the natural world. Although not all of the Miller Library’s exhibits include student work, July’s exhibit is comprised of photographs by Robby Wrench, a UW Bothell Gardener who recently finished his first year in the Masters of Environmental Horticulture program. An opening reception for this exhibit will be held in the library on Thursday, July 5th from 5:00 to 7:00 pm.


Are you feeling inspired to create your own art? We have Botanical Sketching and Botanical Drawing classes on the schedule for this fall.