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Hannah Jones

Blue Heron’s outdoor art exhibit pays homage to “invisible constituents” of the forest

Blue Heron's outdoor art exhibition is created in tandem with nature, rather than against it. (Photo courtesy of the Blue Heron Nature Preserve)

Instead of your usual walk or run with music blaring, what if you listened to the birds chirping and the leaves rustling? What else would help you be more present and integrated with nature? 

That’s local artist K. Tauches’ approach to Light as a Feather, an outdoor exhibition immersed in Atlanta’s Blue Heron Nature Preserve. Tauches curated the exhibition, selecting the theme and 12 participating artists, and is the organization’s artist in residence this year.

Each year, Blue Heron hosts an outdoor exhibition called Art of Nature, where artists create nature-inspired artwork with the forest serving as their canvas. The annual event celebrates the natural and art worlds while reminding visitors of the importance of humans’ connection to the environment.

Plants and animals are some of those “invisible constituents.” (Photo by Hannah E. Jones)

Tauches takes a whimsical approach to nature, art, and where the two meet — while having a deep respect for the natural world. 

While walking through Blue Heron’s forested 30 acres — an oasis of green and butterweed’s yellow blooms in the spring — Tauches refers to the “invisible constituents,” like animals, plants, energies, ancestors, which are honored through the works in the exhibition.

“The idea was not to be egotistical with demanding attention in the park, but to empathize with what’s already here,” Tauches said. “I call them the invisible constituents. They’re here, but they’re not screaming and yelling about it; they’re just with us.”

“Herons carry significantly positive symbolic meaning in many different cultures: persistence, longevity, protection, peace, balance and wisdom. They are also seen as messengers to the gods,” Connor wrote. (Photo courtesy of the Blue Heron Nature Preserve)

One piece, Spirits of the Preserve by Dorothy O’Connor, serves as an ode to the nature preserve’s namesake — the Great Blue Heron. The sculpture shows a heron made from wood collected around the nature preserve. The wooden bird hangs from a tree branch, revealing the underside of a set of wings that resemble tree branches.

Another installation called “Ask the Children” by Toxosi AkaraSangba pays homage to the missing children of Atlanta, native tribes and Indigenous communities. 

AkaraSangba, whose heritage includes Cherokee, Seminole and African American, created a tapestry interwoven with photos of the missing children. Each color used in the piece represents a prayer and connection to another realm. 

“Ask The Children” by Toxosi AkaraSangba. (Photo courtesy of the Blue Heron Nature Preserve)

“For me, it’s an altar or a marriage between simultaneous life and death. It’s almost a bridge across,” AkaraSangba said. “We’re having moments of joy; we’re having moments of sorrow. It’s all connected.”

The installations should integrate with the surrounding forest to ebb and flow with the rest of the natural world. The artwork isn’t protected from the elements like wind and rain, and Executive Director Melody Harclerode is deliberate about not installing “do not touch” signs. 

This idea of working with nature, rather than against or around it, is a core principle at Blue Heron. 

“We think of nature-inspired art as yet another important approach to connecting people with nature,” Harclerode said. “A lot of times when you do see nature-inspired or outdoor art, it dominates the landscape. But at Blue Heron, there’s a dialogue because this land is so delicate and so precious.”

In the art world, Tauches added, this is called “plop-art.” And Blue Heron’s vision of marrying the natural environment with a piece of art is the antithesis of plop-art.

“They call it that in art circles when you have a giant red sculpture and plop it down. This is the opposite of that,” Tauches said. “Everyone in this show took time and care, and were inefficient and made changes, and co-created with what’s already here.”

The Blue Heron team and nature creatives hope the exhibition encourages folks to get outside, sans distractions, so they can enjoy all Mother Earth has to offer. As Harclerode puts it, the more time people spend outdoors, the more it’s appreciated and, therefore, protected. 

The Light as a Feather exhibition runs through Sunday, June 12, and is free to the public. Click here to learn more

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and 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 two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.

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