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In November, three artists from Taiwan spent several weeks at Lafayette launching an exhibit with strong political themes. This week, two Lafayette art faculty members — and the work of a third — will arrive in Taiwan to launch an exhibit of their own that is replete with images of nature.

Jim Toia, director of the art department’s community-based teaching program, and Lew Minter, media lab director and lecturer, will be artists in residence at the Taipei Culture Foundation, also known as Taipei Artist Village, from March 11-25, and exhibit there and at the National Chengchi University in Taipei.

Toia says he, Minter, and Ed Kerns, Clapp Professor of Art and director of the Williams Visual Arts Building, have prepared exhibits for two separate shows. The Mind of Nature: Structures and Processes, at the Taipei Artist Village, will feature paintings by Kerns; paintings, prints, and wall constructions by Minter; and drawings and a video installation by Toia.

“All of the work pulls together through the examination of natural structure,” says Kerns, whose paintings feature scientific themes, including images such as the double helix.

The exhibit at National Chengchi University will feature digital images by all three artists.

“We specifically were trying to do something that would be in addition to and different from the show at Taipei Artist Village,” Toia says. “We thought a nice counterpoint would be the work we do in digital format that we don’t show a lot.”

The two exhibits — which seem Eastern in theme — are a counterpoint themselves to the somewhat Western themes explored in Limits on Freedom: Art of Taiwan Today by the Taiwanese artists, Ben Yu, Mei Dean-E, and Wei-Jane Chir.

“Their work is very political in nature,” Kerns says. “Our work is almost the opposite; it’s inherently apolitical.”

Minter’s work in The Mind of Nature includes digital images printed on watercolor paper, mounted on wood, and painted into with acrylics.

“The basic structure is a very spontaneous loose grid and the figures that come out of that are what’s known as embedded figures,” he says, explaining that a walk along the Bushkill Creek gave him the idea to take that theme closer to its roots in nature by constructing the same kind of grids with tree branches, then covering the branches with rice paper soaked in a polymer emulsion.

“The paper really becomes part of the grid and when it dries, it looks like animal skin,” he says, explaining that the grid serves as a metaphor for structure in nature.

Minter, who is part Iroquois, says the work, which Wei-Jane Chir encouraged him to pursue during her residency at Lafayette, “visually makes reference to aboriginal technology anywhere in the world where there is a reverence for nature, which is something we have lost in our culture.”

Toia’s work features a set of mushroom spore drawings, called Dissolving Garden, and nine television sets of uniform size, each displaying intentionally out-of-focus videotaped images of a variety of elements found in nature.

“You’re literally focusing on the patterns rather than the images,” he says.

The three artists’ digital work also focuses on nature.

Kerns’ digital-and-painted images of natural themes, some with dozens of layers of color, were produced in collaboration with Lafayette EXCEL Scholar students over the past several years.

Toia’s two-sided, 20-inch-wide, 10-to-15-foot-long digital images are printed on acetate, looped together, and rolled along a conveyor belt.

Minter’s images are nature-based, focusing particularly on geometric patterns formed by underwater life forms such as coral, kelp, and starfish.

For Toia, the stay in Taiwan will be especially exciting because he plans to spend several days at a mushroom farm about three hours outside Taipei.

“My work is all about discovery and popping myself in the middle of nature and responding to whatever I discover,” he says. “I really look forward to that and spending time with our artist friends.”

Already, the three artists have further plans for their work—and for future collaboration with the Taiwanese artists.

Minter plans to collaborate with Chir, producing digital reconstructions for a book of ancient Chinese art.

Toia’s work will be exhibited April 22-May 28 at Kim Foster Gallery in New York City, and all three artists have agreed to exhibit at Banana Factory in Bethlehem, Pa., this summer.

Kerns plans to visit Taiwan in the fall.

“This will not be the end of our association,” he says, explaining that both Mei Dean-E and Ben Yu, who serves as director of the center for media and informational design at National Cheng Chi University, are beginning careers in the United States. “They are looking forward to coming back on their own and making prints.”

Toia believes the trip promises to offer plenty of potential for growth.

“It’s an opportunity to place oneself in an environment that is exceptionally foreign,” he says. “How can you go to a new environment like that and not find new things to work with?”

Categorized in: Academic News