The Wildling Museum of Art and Nature invites the public to experience two new art installations by artists Holli Harmon and Nicole Strasburg that may be viewed from the outside-in during its ongoing public closure due to state and local COVID-19 public health mandates for indoor museums.
In the museum’s Tower Gallery installation, Holli Harmon: The Nature of Clouds, the artist’s immersive work focuses on a Norfolk Island Pine tree floating beneath bright blue, cumulus cloud-filled skies. Large chandelier crystals hang suspended by invisible thread from ceiling to floor in a brilliant rain shower as plants are suspended throughout at varying heights.
The plants — made up of kokedama moss balls — are planted with coleus, spider plants and various succulents. Centered beneath the suspended crystals and plants are three weathered eucalyptus tree stumps, their faces covered with mirrors to reflect back the sky and patterns above. The show will be on view through the fall.
Clouds have been an inspiring source material for Harmon since 2016 when she first began her work on The River’s Journey exhibition project, exploring the Santa Ynez River, and examining all elements of the water cycle. “I learned that this transpiration circle begins and ends in the clouds – water’s highest source,” she said.
Harmon’s process included research in all its forms, from scientific to poetic. She said she became particularly inspired by 19th century British meteorologist Luke Howard’s cloud classification system, as well as cloud poetry by writer Johann Goethe and contemporary poet Mark Strand.
“This current installation is my newest interpretation of the transpiration of water from earth, to plants, to sky,” Harmon said. “The work is partially inspired by author Richard Hamblyn’s book ‘The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies,’ about early meteorologist Luke Howard.”
The added plants in her Tower Gallery installation were born out of a new fascination with the Japanese floral art form of kokedama, or string gardens. “Through quarantine, these literally became my growing obsession and the perfect foil for the idea of water transpiration from earth to plant to sky to cloud to rain.”
Accompanying the new Tower Gallery exhibit is a window art installation titled Wintering: A Fox Tale by artist Nicole Strasburg. The series of papercut fox silhouettes was specially designed by Strasburg to bring joy and wonder to passersby during the museum’s extended closure. The public can view the works, which are illuminated at night, through the spring.
“We wanted to create something exciting for the windows that would let everyone know we were only hibernating, not closed forever,” said Strasburg. “With my love for animals, and the fox being the Wildling Museum mascot, it seemed fitting to do something with a fox theme.”
Strasburg’s intricate papercutting technique transformed the museum’s windows into a dramatic winter landscape once lit.
“Wintering and hibernating are not always a dormant time, it’s also a time of great imagination and rejuvenation, a time to recharge,” Strasburg said. “Designing and cutting the paper images, as well as configuring the armature to hold the creation were a wonderful way to pass the time in quarantine with the added benefit of bringing attention to the museum.”
Both Harmon and Strasburg donated their time to the Wildling Museum in a joint effort to find creative ways to bring visibility to the museum while continuing to engage audiences during the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on indoor museums.
The Wildling Museum invites viewers to share photos of their experiences with both of the new installations and tag the museum on social media at @wildlingmuseum or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harmon, who lives in Santa Barbara, earned her master’s degree from San Diego State University. In 2016, she had a major exhibit of portraiture at the Elverhøj Museum in Solvang and in 2017, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History acquired one of her works. For more on Harmon’s work, visit www.holliharmon.com.
Strasburg is a locally-grown Santa Barbaran. After spending years roaming the UCSB campus, where her father taught set and lighting design, it seemed a natural fit to accept a fellowship to the College of Creative Studies and later graduate in the studio art program. Her focus is contemporary landscape paintings in both oil and gouache.
She has a history with the local Santa Barbara art scene as contributing member of Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative, past president of Santa Barbara Printmakers, and current member of both Westmont Arts Council and Wildling exhibition committee.
After owning and running her own studio gallery in downtown Santa Barbara for 12 years, Strasburg closed that gallery’s doors to be represented locally by Sullivan Goss and nationally by the Sundance Catalog. She is currently co-curating a new show with the Wildling for when museum reopens.
Strasburg is also preparing her next solo show for Sullivan Goss, which opens in July. For more about Strasburg’s work, visit www.nicolestrasburg.com.
For more about the Wildling, and to volunteer or join as a member, visit www.wildlingmuseum.org.