Duluth artist Tara Austin’s solo exhibition Boreal Ornament III opens at Joseph Nease Gallery on March 27 and will run through May 30. We welcome you to join us in an exploration of the mathematically infinite. Employing designs both fractal and organic, Austin’s vast body of work is a testament to nature and reality. Her rich landscapes are of chaos, complexity, and order. They hold as much inherent beauty as a satellite image of a hurricane, a sunflowers' petals, or an assemblage of diatoms under a microscope. At every scale, Austin's work reminds us of both the rational and the emotional – the linear and non-linear, the opposite yet coexisting forms – that are a perfect mirror of the natural world around us.
There is a defiance of categorization inherent in her paintings, which has more to do with the scope of her artistic vision, than medium or substance. To lock her in space and time as belonging to one movement or another is to completely miss the mark. Austin’s paintings aren’t a wistful, surrealist interpretation of the cosmos, or the result of post-modernistic pressures. Rather, her richly patterned compositions access both the order and danger of a mathematical universe. The tessellated surfaces she has created could easily be a representation of differential equations and population modeling or a visual aid to the rise and fall of the Nile throughout millennia.
These works are also a unique reflection of a particular artist and the way she moves through the world around her, representing her lived experience among flora and wilderness stretching from the boreal forest of Northern Minnesota to the tropical rainforests of Ecuador - biomes whose beauty extends past rationality, to the chaos of living and unpredictable things.
She has caught onto something real as much as it is theoretical. It’s the artist’s version of the physicist’s unified field. It’s the orchid’s real-time evolution to survive its variable environment. For this reason, her works innately convey deep meaning to all of us: the mathematician, the back-yard botanist, the art historian, the human being.
Having acknowledged an appreciation of botany and natural pattern, Austin incorporates techniques from scenic painting and faux finishing, the folk art of Norwegian rosemaling, and reverse painting on glass. Building upon these heritage-rich processes early on became a way for her to develop a personal aesthetic based upon the necessity of good craftsmanship. Within these traditions, she’s learned to honor the authority of geometry, harmony, and natural beauty, using these traditions to create something new. As such, Tara Austin’s visual concepts become timeless. As prescient now as they would have been thousands of years ago as our ancestors began using mathematics to explain the world around them.
For a more expansive essay about Tara Austin's paintings, please also reference the link below with writing by Wayne Roosa and Ann Klefstad.