Nourished by Nature

Lauren Waters and Marian Geary are long-time friends with a mutual love for the natural world. Their friendship developed around the outdoors, on camping and paddling trips. They are also visual artists, in pottery and watercolour,  who decided to collaborate on a body of work that celebrates nature’s ability to nurture the human spirit. The result is an exhibition called Nourished by Nature now showing at the Yukon Arts Centre community gallery.

Although their practices may seem quite different – Waters is a watercolour artist, Geary is a potter – their materials are drawn from the same elements. As Waters points out, a potter’s clay consists of soil and water, while watercolours are water plus pigments, which come from the soil. The artists are “working in the same medium with different results,” Waters says.

Geary has been “playing with mud,” as she puts it, for over 15 years. She’s benefited from local resources such as Art Underground’s studio and classes. Although she bought a kiln and a wheel of her own, she ultimately chose to work in potter Patrick Royle’s studio where she learns from his expertise and enjoys the company of others.

Geary generally focuses on practical work – mugs, tumblers and bowls – which she sells at craft sales. However, for Nourished by Nature, she’s been experimenting with less utilitarian pieces and focusing more on decorative elements.

“I have typically been a practical potter – I do lots of mugs and whatever else. But I’ve also always looked at nature and gone ‘Wow, look at that pattern, look at that cool pattern in nature. Like, how do I put that into my pottery? How can I bring the two together?’”

Geary also had the challenge of bringing her earthy pottery together with Waters’ ethereal watercolours.

“I’ve seen these lovely paintings but how do I relate them to what I’m doing?” Geary asked herself.

For Waters, watercolours are the perfect medium to express her immediate experience with nature.

“I love spending time outdoors doing spontaneous, quick watercolour sketches to capture the essence of the subject,” she says. “I use watercolours because they are portable, fresh, light and often unpredictable.”

In collaborating with Geary, she is sometimes motivated to paint subjects in response to her friend’s work. For example, Geary created an owl vessel, which got Waters interested in the bird as a subject as well. The result is a piece called Who, a portrait of a pensive owl emerging from an atmospheric background.

The artists have a few ways that they “feed off one another.” For example, Waters once mentioned to Geary a fascination with dragonflies, but didn’t pursue them artistically. But her friend did.

“Of course I didn’t do any paintings of dragonflies, then all of a sudden Marian sends me this picture of this gorgeous bowl that she had done with a dragonfly in raku and I’m like, ‘Oh wow,’” Waters says. “And that sparked me to figure out the technique that I wanted to use [to paint dragonflies].”

That quest sent Waters and her partner on a hike in pursuit of dragonflies. Waters “drove herself crazy” attempting to capture the flitting, evasive insects with her camera, to no avail. Then, on their way home, a single dragonfly landed in their van and she was able to photograph it.

Waters’ final watercolour includes three remarkedly realistic dragonflies with transparent wings set against washes of blues, greens and browns. It’s a fitting complement to Geary’s piece, which features raku glazes and three hovering dragonflies cut out of the clay.

As part of her process, Waters takes online lessons. Learning from other artists expands her repertoire of skills to draw from when deciding how to approach her work. The result is a range of styles from realism to impressionism to a more stylized expressionism.

The latter can be seen in Waters’ Purple Feathers, where the feathers are reduced to geometric shapes set against a dynamic, abstract background. The painting partners well with Geary’s raku Feather Vase, featuring loon feathers burned into the vessel. In both the painting and the vase, the artists experimented with techniques and processes to create unusual and original pieces.

All of this experimentation and collaboration begins with the artists’ similar visions for Nourished by Nature.

“For me it’s inspiring others to experience the awe of nature, sparking a joy or a way to connect deeply with nature,” says Waters.

“If people see joy in other people, they experience it themselves,” Geary reflects. “I hope people appreciate nature and that I can add one more dimension to that.”

Nourished by Nature is showing at the Yukon Energy Community Gallery at the Yukon Arts Centre. For dates and times visit: https://yukonartscentre.com/events/nourished-by-nature-marian-geary-lauren-waters

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