Forest Bathing – A Group Exhibition about Nature

by Jen Dragon

Forest Bathing installation view John Lyon Paul (left) Anne Leith (right)
Forest Bathing installation view John Lyon Paul (left) Anne Leith (right)

Woodstock, NY – Forest Bathing is a concept that originated in Japan in the 1980’s as an antidote to an increasingly technological and alienating world. The idea is to mindfully walk in the woodlands and reconnect with the sounds, smells, colors and textures of nature. The recent Covid pandemic and its restrictions on indoor gatherings have forced a return to the outdoors creating a renewed appreciation for the forest habitat and its seasonal cycles. Inspired by the woodlands of upstate New York, this exhibition features artwork by Ashley Garrett, Anne Leith, Iain Machell, John Lyon Paul, Christy Rupp and Martin Weinstein. 

As Forest Bathing is prescribed by Japanese physicians as a medical cure to calm stressed nerves and mitigate pain, this exhibition seeks to heal the soul by dissolving the gallery walls that separate outside from inside thus reuniting the self with nature.  All six artists independently use the experience of the woodlands as a touchstone for very different and contemporary styles of painting and sculpture. Forest Bathing runs through Sunday February 27th, 2022 at the Kleinert/James Art Center, Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, 34 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY. More info:

Ashley Garrett works from the memories of landscape in her mind. Her brushwork sparkles with captured filtered light of the forest with percussive sky blue patches and calm stone grey shadows. In Garrett’s work, we have the illusion of floating in a cacophony of mysterious spaces and colorful burrows where we can feel the joy and the struggle of creation. There is chaos and improvisation. But like nature, there is a hidden geometrical organization and a perpetual balance between what is and is not. 

Anne Leith’s plein-air paintings are an exuberant expression of a will to create a greater, organized whole from the chaos of nature. Leith’s mark-making velocity and vibrant colors (often accentuated with silver or gold leaf) race to capture the startling flashes of brilliant light found in the forest. Anne Leith seeks to bend space and time with a vigorous response to the intimacy of the solitary self and its attentive relationship to the vastness of the Catskills. 

Iain Machell ’s work explores the tactile presence and possibilities of paper as well as allowing fluid, organic influences in his mark making media. Materials are bent, stressed and meticulously detailed to create a delicate cartography of space and being. There is a non-objective element to everything Machell makes but there is also a subtle bridge between the object itself and it’s position of a fractal microcosm of a greater world.

Forest Bathing Installation with John Lyon Paul sculpture
Forest Bathing Installation with John Lyon Paul sculpture

John Lyon Paul ’s reverse paintings on clear acrylic plexiglas evoke ecclesiastical ornament with its glowing, fractured light. These luminous, colorful forms manifest the intangible rendering clearly previously unseen realms. Paul’s vibrating pigments change with the ambient light manifesting a multitude of shadows and infinite gem-like combinations. An early sculpture by the artist of a fawn made from gun stocks and axe handles serves as a center point and mascot for the exhibition.

Fungible © Christy Rupp, cut paper collage 2021
Fungible © Christy Rupp, cut paper collage, 2021

Christy Rupp  analyzes the dynamic connection between creatures, their distinctive purposes and the ominous threats to their habitats. In her wall sculptures of rainforest animals, Rupp etches welded and crafted animal forms with the molecular formulas that these frogs, ants and snakes contribute as healing pharmaceuticals for humans. In her Snap Shot collages, Rupp dynamically blends the intrusions on woodland creatures and their ecosystems creating a new environment that weaves both unnatural and natural worlds. 

Sassafrass, Morning Under Afternoon © Martin Weinstein 2021
Sassafrass, Morning Under Afternoon © Martin Weinstein, 2021

Martin Weinstein’s paintings reference both the earth and the surrounding cosmos in perfect harmony. This balanced meeting of the inner and outer worlds are due to Weinstein’s technique of painting on 3-5 interlocking sheets of clear acrylic panels over a period of months to years. The clarity of these layered paintings only becomes apparent with the joinery of each incomplete translucent layer that records only a part of the visual story. Seen together as overlapping panels, the optical illusion of reality is perfect; yet slid away from one another, each panel holds only a titillating fragment of the whole.