Date of Award

Summer 5-7-2013

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts

Author Department/Program

Graduate School of Art

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Art

Degree Type



In this study I examine ideas of nature, human nature, and artificial nature that are relevant to my work. I explain that the natural realm is a physical presence in the world and that it is also a cultural construct. My work is concerned with metaphorical representations of nature and I contextualize my artwork within the work of modern and contemporary artists who create artificial representations of nature that reference landscapes. I relate that I am disturbed by our current culture’s inharmonious relationship with the natural realm and explain how my work opposes our cultural anthropocentrism and the collective assumption that the natural realm is mostly valuable because of its material worth.The natural realm, to me, is essential to humans’ physical and emotional well-being because the phenomena of our sensorial environments inspires our metaphors, symbols and analogies that allow us to communicate more effectively. My work allies itself with the philosophy of Deep Ecology that teaches that all living beings on Earth are valuable, interdependent, and that a respectful co-existence with these beings enriches our own experiences.

In later sections I explain how artificial nature reflects human nature: more specifically, our concerns, thoughts, and emotions. Romanticism and Deep Ecology teach us that the natural realm can enhance our self-understanding. I compare and contrast my artwork to other contemporary artists’ artificial representations of nature that reflect Romanticist or Deep Ecology leanings.

I support philosophers of nature who believe that humanity’s distance from the natural realm is dangerous. My work employs several strategies to help us see nature in a light of reverence and respect. I anthropomorphize nature in my work to reveal individualized concerns regarding our current cultural conditions. My anthropomorphization recognizes the interconnectedness between humans and the natural realm, our spiritual and physical similarities, and works against our cultural anthropocentrism that allows us to dominate the natural realm. In addition to discussing my art within the meta-topic of artificial nature, I also discuss my artistic strategies that allude to Romanticism, the Kitsch Aesthetic, the Grotesque Body, and the Carnivalesque.


English (en)

Program Director

Patricia Olynyk

Program Director's Department

Graduate School of Art

Thesis Advisor

Buzz Spector

Studio/Primary Advisor

Patricia Olynyk

Committee Member

Cheryl Wassenaar

Committee Member

Cheryl Wassenaar

Committee Member

Monika Weiss

Artist's Statement


Rolling rivers, lush forests, brightly colored flowers, chirping birds, the sun glistening through a dense canopy, the slopes of a distant hill, the cool ambient colors after heavy snowfall. What is nature? The natural realm is a physical presence in the world, but it is also a cultural construct. Whenever nature is represented through language or art, it becomes metaphorical or symbolic. My work is concerned with these metaphorical representations of nature. My oeuvre can be contextualized within the work of modern and contemporary artists who create artificial representations of nature that reference landscapes.

It is evident in the way our culture relates to nature that it has a secondary status to human culture. We value nature mostly because of its material worth, which provides the means of our subsistence and comfort. I am conscious and disturbed by humanity’s anthropocentrism. Nature, in the context of my oeuvre, is not a passive, mechanistic entity to be controlled and manipulated at will. I endow nature, the animal and plant realm, with a bodily presence that is fantastic, spectacular, sentient, and reactive. It is a body that is undeniably analogous to our own. I subscribe to the deep ecology idea that all life on Earth is a web of interconnections and that we share special, and more egalitarian, value for this reason. We are all a part of nature, and the animal and plant realm possesses spiritual as well as material qualities that are essential to humans.

It is worth noting that our current societal views concerning nature are predicated on the scientific legacy of the eighteenth century’s Age of the Enlightenment. There are two dominant currents of philosophy concerning nature in Western culture, both of which stem from the Enlightenment. In the book, The Passion of the Western Mind, professor Richard Tarnas differentiates between “two temperaments or general approaches to human existence characteristic of the Western mind” [i]. He refers to the differences between the “spirit of enlightenment” and “the romantic vision” [ii]. In one view, the scientific perspective, nature is esteemed for what it contributes to human knowledge and, consequently, human well-being. Nature, in this view is somewhat dead, machine-like, and indifferent to human exploitation. In the romantic view, nature is more spiritually charged and has more deeply seeded connections to humanity. Tarnas elaborates, “whereas for the Enlightenment-scientific mind, nature was an object for observation and experiment, theoretical explanation and technological manipulation, for the Romantic, by contrast, nature was a live vessel and spirit, a translucent source of mystery and revelation” [iii].

As a contemporary romanticist, I identify with nature and also recognize that our culture is becoming increasingly distanced from it. In the act of imagining narrative scenarios in which nature has agency, I work to project more individualized concerns and emotions regarding our present cultural conditions. Art has the capacity to ascribe metaphorical meaning to nature that can speak to the anthropocentrism of humans. The environmental crisis of our time requires us to think about the natural realm with renewed respect and wonder. Art can help us to accomplish this task. My work employs several strategies to help us see nature in this light of reverence. In addition to discussing my art within the meta-topic of artificial nature, my work also alludes to such themes as romanticism, the kitsch aesthetic, the grotesque body, and the carnivalesque.