In my recent travels, I have found two sites where artists have teamed with Mother Nature as an art partner. In Italy, at Arte Sella, artists are asked to use Nature as a source of inspiration. In fulfilling this request, the artwork must develop a relationship with Mother Nature as Mother Artist, because these three-dimensional works will be slowly absorbed into her natural landscape. It is Mother Art who will use the rain, the wind and the snow to shape the pieces. It is her sunlight that will provide the energy that dries, calcifies, rusts, and creates the final artwork. No human hand is further required. The creative process is the entire lifecycle after production is complete. Arte Sella is a well-thought out and planned open museum. But such sustainable change isn’t always planned.
In my trip to South Africa, I had an opportunity to see another artistic collaboration between Nature and man: bush cave paintings in the Cederberg area north of Cape Town. Over a thousand years ago – man used natural elements such as iron oxide and ferriginous shale from old clay beds to paint their visions on stone walls. The colors (maroon, yellow, orange and white) were as vibrant as the shaman’s trances. The cave walls were a canvas supplied by Mother Nature. As the years went by, Mother Nature let the spirits of the people fall into the stone cracks and she let the rain and wind wash away the paint. But Mother Art allowed the cave walls to drink the dark red iron oxide, which stained the designs permanently into the stone . Over time, it is now Mother Art who shapes the images and showcases the works. Cast your mind now to Leonardo da Vinci, one of the powerhouses of art history. As the Last Supper fades and the Mona Lisa crackles, it is clear that Mother Nature was not his partner. Mother Art is having her revenge in tiny bites.