Nature into Art: Same Sky/Même Ciel

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Same Sky/ Même Ciel Installation

The third article in our series dedicated to reappraisals of the picturesque—how nature becomes art—investigates how artists adapted their creative thinking during the Covid-19 pandemic.  In early 2020, Leslie Greene and Duwenavue Sante Johnson scheduled an exhibition of their collaborative works at The Jones Institute in San Francisco. The confinement significantly delayed their exhibition but offered unexpected opportunities.

Greene, a painter who has been living and creating works on paper, canvas and ceramics in Paris and Marsanne, Provence, and Johnson, who has lived between Philadelphia and San Francisco with a visit during lock down to the Navaho Indian reservation in New Mexico, met several years ago when Johnson was an apprentice at the Lesage textile studio in Paris. When Covid restrictions dashed their hopes of a joint show and in-situ collaboration, they developed a new medium to share inspiration and maintain contact. Cutting 8 x 11 centimeter circles from their own watercolor paintings,  the circles literally fit into their pockets. Each artist ventured into their respective landscapes with their pocket paintings. They decided to share their pocket paintings sending them via the mail system, and then posting each other’s works in landscapes far away from their site of creation via social media. In so doing, both artists re-evaluated their relationships to art in nature while inspiring one another.

Same Sky Installation in Marsanne

The framing of art in nature encouraged each artist to question the essence of the picturesque: how does art change our perception of the natural world and vice versa. For Greene these pocket sized provocations prompted reflections about the future of our planet: like small globes that travel, they conceived a new exhibition Same Sky/Même Ciel. Realizing that the central process of their project, from the studio, creating the pocket paintings, to placing the circles in the outside world and then photographing them, could engage a wider audience.

Greene and Johnson encouraged other artists and interested amateurs to join their pocket paintings project. In July 2021 Greene installed the pocket paintings as a 3Dimensional globe-at the Saint Lucie Chapel in Mirmande. Participants from around the world sent Greene their own pocket paintings by mail from the around the world. Encouraged by the Instagram @Same_skymeme_ciel, Greene and Johnson realized how important it is to maintain collaboration and inspiration during a pandemic year when everyone’s lives were restricted to the private sphere: the pocket paintings incarnated how small interconnected artistic interventions revealed the beauty and fragility of our worlds.

Same Sky/Meme Ciel

Leslie Greene and Rebecca Dolinsky with pocket paintings

The exhibition will be in Mirmande until August 21 and then travel to The Jones Institute in San Francisco where it will be on display until September 19. The exhibition includes the pocket paintings, multimedia documentation, and works produced by school children who were inspired by the project. The 1,600 pocket paintings, circles that are reconstituted as a globe, are symbolic of our world, our shared biosphere, the critical zone where we live, and the many ways we connect, during a world-wide pandemic and beyond. We all live under the same sky.

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