In March I visited the Boise Art Museum (BAM) as part of an essay response for my modern art course. I had the option to respond to one of two shows: the Lightpaintings of Stephen Knapp (briefly blogged about here), or the collection of works in the show Critical Messages: Contemporary Northwest Artists on the Environment. I chose the latter. Among the many incredible pieces I responded to, the biospheres of Vaughn Bell’s Village Green especially struck me. I wanted to share a clip from my composition that illustrates how I felt:
“The next installation to attract my eye was Village Green, by Vaughn Bell, Jim Andersen, and Dean Wentworth. Village Green consists of two acrylic biospheres, though I was under the impression that more have been installed in other contexts. These clear acrylic structures, shaped like greenhouses, hang from the ceiling and contain mini landscapes. The base of each biosphere houses a portal through which visitors may place their head, immersing themselves in the lush environment. Viewing the biospheres from the outside, I was struck by a sense of separateness. The acrylic walls isolated the biospheres, objectifying them. I was exterior, and the biospheres seemed small, sanitized, and almost artificial. But as I rose into the biosphere, I was struck by the immediacy and intimacy of the environment. The air was warm, humid, and scented richly of earth. Some of the plants tickled my face and brushed my hair as I looked around. I even spotted a few tiny insects crawling nearby. The outside influences faded away, muffled in the insulated, private space. I felt comfortable, safe, and welcomed in the natural atmosphere. In contrast, stepping out of the biosphere, the museum entryway was cold stone and echoing walls, desensitized and urban. According to Bell, “Many people long for the smells of nature and softness of greenery while living amidst concrete and diesel fumes. The… Personal Home Biosphere [is] the answer for anyone who feels the ill effects of urban living.” Village Green was particularly appealing to me because I was allowed to interact with it. Instead of the hands-off approach of the other pieces, I was able to experience an active sensory feast and internalize her message of discovering a “newfound intimacy with the land.” “
I happen to love houseplants and tending to their soft green growth, so I loved the biospheres. They seemed to comforting. I wish I had one (a “personal home biosphere”) in my dorm, or in my house. In fact, I was so fascinated with the installation that I investigated the artist further, noting some of her other intriguing projects. Turns out the biospheres have been designed to be mobile, taken with the viewer almost like an astronaut’s helmet.
Portability and mobility of nature are themes Bell has explored repeatedly. Her website includes pictures of shopping cart gardens, shrub-fronted smocks, gardens on wheels with leashes, and shrub-tipped walking sticks. Although somewhat unconventional and sometimes absurd, the idea of never having to leave the comfort nature while in an urban environment is an admirable one.
The essay paragraph was taken from a composition written by me, and thus is my property. Please do not copy or plagiarise the writing.