The central New Jersey-based MOVIS artists like to challenge the spaces in which we view artwork. Since forming in 2006, MOVIS has challenged gravity with “In Suspension” at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, and white gallery walls in “Nibbling the White Cube” at the Gallery at PDS. They continued the theme with “Reinventing the Wheel” at the Arts Council of Princeton, “Inside the Box” at the Bernstein Gallery and “HAM and Eggs” at the Hunterdon Art Museum (HAM being the museum’s acronym). They have made “Noise at the Noyes,” thrown a “Boomerang” at the New Jersey State Museum, and even challenged the idea of the line in “Maverick Parallels” at Artworks Trenton.
This summer, they are taking the challenge outside with MOVIS: Into the Woods, on view at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association Reserve through August 31. Not only is it a chance to see the artwork, but an opportunity to get out on the Watershed’s trails, with boardwalks making it accessible.
“Installing a group of artworks in the woods is nothing like putting up an art show in a traditional gallery,” says artist Susan Hockaday, whose “Invasive Vine,” made from orange plastic fencing material strung through the trees, reminds us that the most invasive tangle comes not from the plant world but from humankind. “Orange construction fence can be seen everywhere across the land,” she says. “Here, as an invasive vine in the woods, it reminds us of the toxic presence of plastic in our world.
Hockaday hopes visitors will discover a relationship between the artworks and their environment, and “come away with a fresh sense of the intricacy, beauty and power of the natural world.”
Composer/musician/sound artist Rita Asch is the only MOVIS artist to have work exhibited indoors, in the two-year-old LEED certified Watershed Center. Visitors don headphones to listen to “It’s Raining,” a fusion of analog and digital sound. The piece was originally conceived for Theremin, rainstick and marimba, with the subsequent addition of the steel drum, says Asch. The Theremin is played and recorded by renowned Thereminist Kip Rosser, and combines with the synthesized sounds of the marimba, steel drum and the recorded sound of rainsticks. There’s even an umbrella nearby, should the auditory effect make you feel raindrops on your skin.
Frank Magalhães has created “Pipe Drum” from PVC pipe, wood and hardware. Tuned to the pentatonic scale, sound is produced by swatting the ends of the tubes with rubber swatters—actually, repurposed mouse pads. “The concept was to make a simple tuned percussion instrument using easily-gathered construction materials,” says Magalhães, whose past MOVIS artwork has been photography based.
There are notes for several simple tunes printed out so that even the most novice among us can create music that reverberates through the woods.
Marsha Levin-Rojer, who often “draws” with mono-filament and other fine fibers, has created “Homage to the Spider, a Natural Recyclist,” a web of mesh produce bags stitched together. “It is common for spiders to eat their own web daily to recoup some of the energy used in spinning,” says Levin-Rojer. “Inspired by this natural recyclist, I have created my own web using recycled materials and assorted packing materials.”
Berendina Buist lays claim to “the shortest statement in history”: “A fox crosses the woods. I think I see him. An orange afterimage is all that remains.”
Buist, who often combines photography and fiber in her artwork, has “spun” yarn, in shades of green and bright orange, around two trees. Depending on the time of the day, the installation reflects light in different ways, creating hallucinatory effects. Walks in the woods, and communion in the wild, often lead to such images, leaving us to wonder: Did we really see a fox? Or was it a weasel?
It is pleasant, indeed, to walk through the woods, listening to birdsong, discovering surprises along the trail. Eve Ingalls’ investigations in the environment and our relationship to it is in play even in her indoor work. A one-time student of Josef Albers, Ingalls was a painter until the turn of the millennium when she turned to sculpture and the discovery of cast paper. For her outdoor piece, “Communicating Underground,” she has used sturdier materials—foam, aluminum wire, Renshape 15 (low-density foam boards). The result appears as a rotting tree stump around which a silvery hand has formed, extending tree-like silvery roots that ensnarl the stump.
The stump was cut down long ago by humans, says Ingalls, but is now bravely supporting the lively growth of a young tree. “The young tree’s roots are tightly hugging the remains of the dead stump while seeking paths down into the earth where contact can be made with a gigantic underground fungal web.”
Rutgers University professor of art emeritus and Lambertville resident John Goodyear says he’s titled his piece “Aviary Art” since birds don’t study aesthetics. “It is also a way of using up some cat food cans and a kind of reverse comment on outdoor cats catching birds to eat.” An assembly of crossed perches has been nailed with cat food cans, filled with birdseed. A chickadee could be seen enjoying an afternoon snack.
MOVIS: Into the Woods open air art exhibit at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Reserve is on view through August 31; free, open daily, dawn until dusk.
The Artful Blogger is written by Ilene Dube and offers a look inside the art world of the greater Princeton area. Ilene Dube is an award-winning arts writer and editor, as well as an artist, curator and activist for the arts.