By Chihiro Kusaza
LIU Post Fine Art’s professor, Winn Rea, exhibited her work on Jan. 8, through Feb. 1 at the Phoenix Gallery in New York City. There were six videos and 12 drawings on display. This marked her third solo exhibition at the gallery. Her artwork is inspired by natural sources like woods, leaves and water. According to her site, winnrea.com, landscapes are the primary inspiration behind her work. In addition to her teaching, Rea has exhibited her own work in galleries, and has been reviewed by The New York Times and Alternet.org.
“Much of my work is temporal,” she posted on her site. “Objects and materials assembled for a brief period of time, then dispersed to be reconfigured in another place and time—much like the land itself.”
Natural environment, which she often utilizes in her work, is a way of living for Rea. The reason why she wants to combine art and nature is because she believes that it reminds people of greater cycles of geologic time, in which the human race is a tiny fragment. When people take themselves too seriously or get too frantic, nature reminds them of a bigger picture to life. Rea once had a teacher who helped her see art and everyday action as interrelated. Art is not something you do, she learned, but is something you are. For Rea, bringing nature and art together is a way of living an integrated life. These teachings are a large part of her lessons at LIU Post.
In the exhibition at the Phoenix Gallery, her favorite work is “Leaf Drawing Process Video 5, 2013,” which can be viewed on her website. “It is a 4:04 minute loop video showing a spot of light traveling across the face of a mossy boulder,” she said. “[The video is] my favorite because it shows the quiver and disintegration of the video created by the friction of drawing, and the passage of time.”
Rea takes influence from the Japanese. “[They] have a practice called Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing—a practice of walking in the woods for therapeutic effect. I, too, feel this restoration. In my efforts to convey that experience to the viewer, my work investigates the nature of experience and perception.”
The artist weaves this method into her work, by working frequently in the woods rather than a studio. With a small stack of watercolor paper, and a vague notion of direction, she uses materials found in the woods to record action, and collects colors found where she walks.
“As I begin to draw with rolled-up leaves on the watercolor paper I noticed the sound; wanting to record that sound, I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket and placed it on my drawing board face down. I did not expect the amazing quivering images that were recorded—they came as a gift to me,” she said.
The artist then conveyed these elements to her viewers. “It was a matter of how to bring that information back to the viewer,” she continued. “Which is when I began to think about presenting the videos on six separate monitors and have them begin and end randomly, sometimes quiet and peaceful, sometimes frantic and agitated—like listening to the wind come up in the woods.”
Rea is confident of her work on this first level “because I have had a personal encounter as an artist with nature that has nourished me,” she said. “On the second level, I had the opportunity to share that with viewers who came to the show, and on a third level, you are inviting more people to know and understand my work, who may keep thinking about it in their own life experience—which is very gratifying as an artist.”