The Garrett Museum of Arts, located in a former bank building, is ten years old. It has endured the ups and downs of any new venture, but one fact remains constant. The GMoA mounts quality art exhibits thanks no doubt to the efforts of director James Gabbard, a number of volunteers, and its board of directors. In the last year alone, we have seen exquisite paper art by Janice Furtner, Ober pottery, complex McArdle sculptures, as well as various photography club and student shows, and works by regional artists from area guilds and universities.
On this night, Gabbard who teaches photography at Purdue was exhibiting some of his own images, along with works of Peter Bella, professor of art and graphic design at the U. of Central Arkansas. The two collaborated on FROM ‘IT’ to ‘THOU,’ an art book about the simplicity and sacredness of nature—whether it is a leaf, a tree, a meadow, or a plant. The photographs feature the earth and forests sacred to Native Americans who believe in living in harmony with the world around them. The images are accompanied by reflective quotations about mythology and the quest for spiritual enlightment.
Using a ruling pen, Bella drafted quotations and words from Chief Seattle, Chief Luther Standing Bear, and other tribe leaders to express a thoughtful celebration of nature not as an “it” but as a “thou.” His artistic use of Sequoyah(S-si-qua-ya) of the Cherokee Nation, “which is argued the most famous Native American writing system,” gave the display dignity and a stark flair. He superimposed large block-like typography on English words such as “earth,” “sky,” “prayer,” “soul,” “river,’ and other phrases to depict elements, beliefs, and creatures of the earth.
Gabbard said he wanted “to foster the idea that everything is connected. A leaf lying on water or on the ground is used to promote the idea that rather than just a leaf on the ground, it will decompose and become nutrients for a nearby ter. This tree in turn will supply shelter to small animals and supply the earth with oxygen.”
Driving home through the fog, we decided the heavy grey cloud that enshrouded our world that night, to be a fitting tribute to an exhibit dedicated to the quietness of nature uninterrupted by man’s mad rush and the industry of modern reality.