“Natural Elements” exhibit to showcase nature-inspired art

The Fermilab Art Gallery exhibit, “Natural Elements,” features work from Chicagoland artists Karen Brown and Roberta Polfus. At left, “Snakes, Grass” by Brown; at right, “White & pink porcelain lady vase with handles” by Polfus.

The Fermilab Art Gallery is a place where art and science converge.

Members of the Fermilab community are invited to a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, June 24, at the Fermilab Art Gallery in Wilson Hall. Attendees can meet the artists and enjoy a time of mingling over hors d’oeuvres.

The show, “Natural Elements,” will remain on display until Aug. 24, featuring work from Chicagoland artists Karen Brown and Roberta Polfus.

Georgia Schwender, Fermilab’s visual arts coordinator, selected these particular artists for the gallery because of how they use different media to portray similar elements of nature.

Brown uses charcoal, watercolor and colored pencils on cotton-rag paper scrolls to create nature-inspired pieces, with both real and imagined subjects including reptiles, underwater creatures and a variety of plants.

“I love being a physical thing in a world of tangible stuff, all held together by structures that are invisible to me,” Brown said. “Drawings are living things. They grow at their own pace– some grow fast, others not so much.”

Polfus sculpts and carves a type of white English porcelain known as grolleg porcelain. Her pieces are either wheel-thrown, hand-built or a combination, and take the form of teapots, vases and other vessels that “fit and feel good in the hand,” according to her artist’s statement.

“My inspiration, I would say, is the natural world and things around me… not just things growing, but insects, birds, all kinds of different things,” Polfus said. “I would say it’s more instinctual and sometimes I get lost in the pieces.”

Schwender, along with a committee of volunteers, organizes five or six art shows each year, featuring a variety of genres, including photography, sculpture, multimedia, drawing and painting.

Art has a long history at Fermilab. The late Robert Wilson, former Fermilab director, was both an artist and a physicist.

“He always felt like art should be a part of the workplace to inspire and soothe the employees,” Schwender said. “We encourage everyone to come out for a chance to mingle and enjoy the professionalism of the works on display.”

— Christine Herman