.. in our nature
"My wish is to stay here always, living quietly
in a corner of nature." - Claude Monet
The coming portfolio in our nature offers an elegy for the natural world in the hands of man. It is a battlefield tour, of sorts, along the blasted, bleeding hinterland between us and the rest of Creation, and assembles an extended meditation on our kind's ambivalent mastery of other lifeforms. If "Art is Nature seen through a temperament," as Zola once said, the prevailing temperament here is grief.
~ GALLERY UNDER CONSTRUCTION ~
15 false parables of man versus nature
This series evokes the uneasy condition of our biophilia, and examines our fumblings to frame humanity's connection to Nature.
- Is ours, as some still like to believe, the relation of innocent Adam to resplendent Eden, even if it's a paradise lost?
- Or of meek prey to ferocious jungle predator, perhaps?
- Or maybe turn that around: isn't this us-versus-nature thing more like great white hunter to doomed quarry?
- Perhaps the more fitting metaphor - in these latter days of cloud seeding, island creation, and custom-modified bacteria - is that of a scientist to his grand experiment.
- Or, considering that we have reordered everything to our species' tastes and appetites, wouldn't our relation to Nature be more like glutton to banquet table?
- For those still yoked to faith, might this flat-earth existence be better understood as a parable of the sinner wrestling the serpent for his soul?
- Would you say we typically approach Nature in the way that a master rules his domain, or more like a shepherd guarding his flock, or perhaps, in your case when you were younger, like a Christopher Robin going tenderly down life's path, hand in hand with his beloved Piglet and Pooh?
Meat Joy (2015)
If none of those paradigms feels quite right to you, then you have still other frameworks to consider.
- Standing before the immensity of Nature, maybe our relationship seems more like that of student to mentor.
- Or perhaps of priest to his tabernacle miracle.
- Shaped as myth or legend, maybe we're most like a homeric bard unfolding an historical tragedy.
- Shaped as cosmology, it is possible that, at this juncture, our kind is acting out the divine wrath of Shiva in reaping the wasteland?
Such is our confusion: mankind adopts all of these roles, at one time or another, in its approach to Nature. The lens we choose depends upon our momentary vantage, fancy, or scheme.
change nature, become changed in turn
So much wilful shape-shifting and glib self-excusing comes at a cost, even to the apex deities ruling our Olympus: "As we change Nature," warned Maxim Gorky, "we change ourselves."
Like our fast-expanding universe or, better, like a field-versus-ground experiment in psychology - where everything is in motion at once so we have no fixed observation point - what's going on between Us and Nature amounts to an exploding chaos, and there is simply no going back to where we started from.
Back to the Garden (2014)
Clear-Cut on Tribal Lands (2015)
Inner Lives of Selected Trees, Various Ages, Historic Fort (2015)
These images challenge our continued veneration for Nature's archetypal forms, and our determination to patrol, nurture, govern, manipulate, disfigure, imitate, protect, exploit, and suppress, at will, the presence of the natural world in our lives.
a mirage of otherness
We perceive Nature both as ourselves - our essential, underlying disposition - and as the Other, the Context, the Quest, the alien and contrary Universe through which our souls migrate.
Baudelaire expressed this dynamic in worshipful terms. "Nature is a temple where living pillars sometimes emit words that blend together; in passing through it, Man traverses forests of symbols that observe him with a familiar eye."
This visual essay - which will debut as the largest gallery on the Beauty & Chaos site - is a docent's melancholy group tour through our tattering symbolic forest: not Nature as it is, but Nature as it seems to us these days, depending.
As we trudge mutely past the dioramas in this museum of unnatural history, what we'll find behind glass is mostly just ourselves in reflections and misadventures. Please do check back again in coming months, to observe how brilliantly we toast our own abiding tenderness toward plants and animals - as decorations, as foodstuffs, as playthings, as talismans, and as venerated cousins - while we blithely slaughter them and their families around the clock.
Lion Without His Pride (2015)
Under some absent god, we preside as the last, unmindful stewards of our beat-up, broken-down Eden. Such epic love and unconscionable cruelty are both, it turns out, in our nature.
The Anteater's Tongue (2015)
Except where indicated, all text and images at this website are (c) 2023 Hunter Madsen, with all rights reserved. No reproduction or distribution without prior written permission.