Boo! Zeitgeist

For the last few years, the trendy image in illustration, home décor, fashion and, eventually, art has been Nature: birds, trees, deer heads, bears. Or perhaps it started the other way around – the design trend of nature has influenced art. Howe’er it was, while this theme of nature has been recycled around the Austin scene for awhile, there’s been a snowballing of shows all within the same month in local progressive galleries of note. Out of all of these, Art Palace’s The Book of Lenny seems to have been the catalyst for discussing this trend of nature in art, and with good cause, I think because the concept is taken so seriously, with such irrestible heart, while incorporating all the current design-y stylization.

The widespread use of these visual elements suggests a coinciding analysis our relationship with nature in an increasingly cemented-over world. It expresses a sense of loss that’s all the more overwhelming because we didn’t know what was lost to begin with. Attempting to answer these deep questions is a worthy endeavor, but seems corrupt from its very roots. Rather than addressing this releationship from a personal stance by dealing with the chaos of nature directly, it’s reflected off the fun house mirrors of the media and the anti-mysteries of urban life where the purpose of everyday objects and systems are obvious (birds on telephone poles, anyone?). It’s all a little too neat. In some works, there’s also something a little too playful, tongue-in-cheek, ironic in dealing with this sense of loss, that seems inappropriate and juvenile. Like chewing gum while taking communion. Perhaps if there wasn’t a simultaneous mass design trend incorporating the same imagery, the answers might be a little more illuminating.

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