The temporary installations are nestled throughout the preserve’s 30 acres. (Photo by Hannah E. Jones.)

By Hannah E. Jones

As a celebration of the intersection of art and nature, Blue Heron Nature Preserve in North Buckhead recently opened its ninth annual outdoor art exhibition — Art of Nature.

Each year, local artists use elements of the outdoors to create artworks that relate to Blue Heron, the environment and humanity’s role within it. This year’s theme is Nesting, and 14 local artists created nature-based works playing off this idea. The exhibition was curated by 2023 Artist-in-Residence Caleb Jamel Brown with help from Artist Liaison Chakura Kineard.

The artists chose locations that inspired them and complemented their works, leaving the temporary installations nestled throughout the preserve’s 30 acres. The habitats range from woodlands and meadows to wetlands and riparian zones. 

Since its start in 2001, the Blue Heron team has highlighted the role that art plays in conservation and sustainability. The preserve was founded by APS arts educator Nancy Jones who recognized the critical role that art can play within environmental education and advocacy efforts.

“[Jones] saw the power of art in educating, inspiring and provoking conversation,” Executive Director Melody Harclerode said. “Art can be a tool to raise awareness, appreciation and love for the environment.”

James Delevett with his piece “Reclamation.” (Photo by Hannah E. Jones.)

The exhibition begins with “Reclamation” by James Delevett. For this piece, he created ceramic lamp posts and harvested moss to cover the structure. Surrounded by stools that would often accompany a fire pit, the piece represents how light — like campfires and lightbulbs — has allowed humans to convene and advance while also changing our relationship to the environment.

“I feel like in this current conversation of humanity… we don’t want to talk about humans as being part of nature and how we interact with that world,” Delevett said. 

Harclerode added: “Nature is in control at the end of the day.”

Lisa Schnellinger used impressions from this box elder maple to create “Elders.” (Photo by Hannah E. Jones.)

As a homage to the leafy giants around us, Lisa Schnellinger created three glass works to represent trees and their micro worlds. To create her pieces — entitled Aloft, Elders and Repose — Schnellinger used clay to create molds of three trees found at Blue Heron. From there, she took those impressions and put them into a sand bed kiln, adding glass panels on top to take the shape. Now, the glass trees sit next to their living counterparts.

“When I came here to choose a site, I watched people going through and they’re on their phones, they’re chasing their dogs, they’re yelling at their kids. [I thought,] ‘They’re missing so much,” Schnellinger said. “I’m hoping that people will slow down and pay a little more attention.”

Nneka Kai’s “In Need of a Moment of Rest.” (Photo by Hannah E. Jones.)

Playing off Blue Heron’s four distinct habitats, Nneka Kai crafted “In Need of a Moment of Rest,” using fallen sticks paired with textile techniques to create a web within the woodlands. Spiders have already begun spinning webs within this piece, with the artwork serving as a template.

These projects are fully integrated with the ecosystems around them, and will naturally change over time as they become weathered from the elements and wildlife.

“A lot of the artists want [their projects] to age. Versus a museum… this is different than that. We like it to organically change and bring nature into it,” Harclerode said. “If some art discolors or changes forms, that’s okay because it’s like nature coming in and integrating itself with the artwork.”

“Hollow Bones” was performed by Cailan Orn and Sammy Spriggs. (Photo by Hannah E. Jones.)

In addition to visual art, the 2023 exhibition also includes a performance piece called “Hollow Bones” by Nadya Zeitlin. The piece begins with two women dressed in white, and one is freely roaming around the sandy terrain while the other is confined within a sphere that resembles a tumbleweed. The first woman helps the other remove herself from the shell and they dance together. At the end of the show, she returns to her nest.

This piece, Zeitlin explained, represents the phases that we go through in life — much like nature does — and how we must embrace change to move forward.

“It’s a story about the feeling of home, safety and memories — all the things that we don’t want to let go. But they are a huge burden on us, and they don’t let us move forward,” Zeitlin said. “I’m exploring what you need to let go in order to move forward and start something new. We do this several times, everyone does in their lifetime.”

The 2023 Art of Nature will run until Sunday, June 25, and is free and open to the public. For more information about the outdoor exhibition, click here.

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is a Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for...

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