Nature center exhibit celebrates early spring

A labor of love is how Norwalk artist Nancy Woodward describes the new exhibit, "EarthWorks," at the Darien Nature Center.

The three-woman show, featuring the work of Woodward and Heidi Lewis Coleman of Stamford and Lucy Krupenye of Wilton, is on display at the center, 120 Brookside Road, through June 8.

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Curated by Ann Hart, the show is nearly devoid of vibrant color, and purposely so. Hart said she wanted to capture the essence of early spring as nature comes to life. " `EarthWorks' is a celebration of nature's simplicities and complexities through the eyes of three remarkably insightful artists. Each pays homage to the beauty of the current, the remnants of the past and the wonder of the unknown future." The glimpses of color, she added, "remind us of the repetitive assurance of nature's cycles and the beauty of the artists' essence shines through their work in a remarkably lovely manner."

Forty-five pieces grace the walls of the exhibit space. Visitors are greeted at the entrance by Coleman's "Dogwood," crafted in cut stainless steel. As viewers wander around the exhibit room, they will see more assemblage pieces by Coleman, photographic images on three different kinds of paper by Woodward and wood, metal, bone and stone sculptures by Krupenye, who uses found and abandoned objects to execute her work.

The show, which is a celebration of Earth Day as well as nature overall, was conceived nearly a year ago when the three artists -- who are familiar with one another's work -- discussed doing a collaborative exhibit. They then brought in Hart to curate and worked on new pieces specifically for the show.

"We were really excited about the fact that it worked out here because we thought the venue was perfectly appropriate for the work that we do," Coleman said. "All of us work in nature in one capacity or another. And then I think there was an aesthetic to our three works that actually worked well together."

Hart agrees. "They all have a tremendous amount of work and different styles and different mediums, but in curating the show I specifically looked for the pieces that would speak to Earth Day and the Darien Nature Center and to the atmosphere of this time of year," said Hart, who has placed the work of more than 90 artists in corporations and residences.

Woodward, a photographic artist, creates shadow portraits, colorful tree spheres and airy landscapes. She works out of her studio at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan and has been an artist in residence at Silver Lake Conference Center in Sharon for six years. She also is a member of the Ridgefield Guild of Artists. Her work has been shown in galleries throughout New England and is in private and corporate collections.

Coleman is an abstract artist who creates mixed-media pieces and steel sculpture and recently has been working with wood. Her work is an exploration into the aesthetics of using language in art, and she has developed new characters by deconstructing and reconstructing her original text, creating languages that are visually richer and more complex. She studied at Parsons and the New York School of Design, and is a juried member of the National Association of Women Artists and the Silvermine Guild of Artists. An award-winner, Coleman has exhibited her work in galleries and museums throughout the country.

Krupenye creates wall-hanging assemblages made of found objects that range in height from 1 foot to more than 6 feet. Her sculpture depicts her personal reflections and meditations, as well as represents that which exists in nature, life and the world. She has exhibited her work in galleries and museums in the Northeast and New York City, and has had solo shows at the Hammond Museum, the Stamford Museum and Silvermine. She has won awards for her sculptures in juried exhibitions, and her work is in private collections in the United States and Europe.

In hanging the work, Hart integrated the contour of the room as well as the light coming through the windows. In addition, while the colors in the works are somewhat muted, said Hart and the artists, they discovered that once certain pieces from all three were placed on the walls -- some by trial and error -- they saw similarities in the hues.

While the artists are excited about being included in the new show, which opened on Earth Day, they are hopeful visitors discover nature's beauty and mystery as seen through their eyes. "I would love for people to walk in and find a sense of peacefulness. The space provides for that, but also I think all of our work together enforces that idea," said Coleman.

Woodward added, "And all of us work with our art from our heart and our spirit and that was one of the main reasons why we love to show our work together."

For her part, Lynn Hamlen, executive director of the nature center, said, "I look for opportunities to bring artists in who have their own expressions of what's happening in the natural world, and these ladies have more than surpassed my expectations. They individually and collectively have made the nature center come to life."

"EarthWorks" can be viewed during Darien Nature Center hours, which are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. For information, call 203-655-7459 or visit