The Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) is excited to welcome ceramic artist Karen Jean Smith as its new exhibitor for the FLI’s Illustrate the Finger Lakes Program. In its fourth year, the program was established to emphasize the interdisciplinary approaches to understanding our natural world by inviting artists and scientists (professionals, hobbyists) to share their images, observations and inspirations of the natural world of the Finger Lakes region. Illustrate the Finger Lakes has two main projects used to accomplish its goal-the Store the Storm Rain Barrel Painting Project and the Gallery Project.
Smith is the FLI’s fifth artist to exhibit in the Gallery Project, which offers the opportunity for artists, amateur and professional, to display their artwork on the walls of the Institute’s first floor. Each piece of artwork is expected to be a unique reflection or interpretation of the Finger Lakes natural environment. Smith’s artwork is inspired by the aquatic invasive plant, water chestnut.
Water chestnut (Trapa natans) is a rooted aquatic plant with floating leaves that was introduced to the northeastern United States in the 1800s. More recently it has spread to the Finger Lakes including such places as Keuka Marsh and the Seneca River, where dense mats can cause native species to move on or die, and recreational opportunities can be thwarted as well.
A resident of central New York for the past 36 years, Smith, an avid kayaker, became aware of the water chestnut as an invasive just a few years ago. “I learned what they were, and began using them as my inspiration,” Smith said. Her intent for her ceramic collection is to convey the destructive nature of the water chestnut while acknowledging that there is a beauty to the plants and the nutlets as well.
“I enjoy working with natural forms that I find when I am out in my kayak or hiking in the woods. When I am developing my work, I like to study not only the forms involved, but also how the plant grows, what the different parts of the plant contribute to its survival and, in the case of the water chestnut, what its history and impact on the environment are,” said Smith.
“We’re very excited to have Karen’s work displayed for the public to enjoy and learn from. With the upcoming hire of a PRISM (Partnership for Invasive Species Management) Coordinator, her exhibit is very timely with the energized focus of our region on invasive species prevention and management. Certainly, when we can appreciate an invasive species as an art form it gives the organism new meaning and offers a perspective of beauty to something we educate the public to ‘fight’,” said Sarah Meyer, community outreach coordinator at the FLI and manager of the Illustrate the Finger Lakes Program.
Smith’s full collection, “Explorations of A Nemesis,” will be displayed in the FLI’s exhibit space in January and remain until May 2014, and can be viewed during normal business hours. An opening exhibit and presentation will be scheduled for February 2014. An opening reception for Smith, followed by a presentation by her, will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 26 from 6-8 p.m. at the Finger Lakes Institute (601 S. Main St., Geneva).
To learn more about Smith and her artwork, visit http://www.karenjeansmith.com/.