There’s no doubt that art has a sort of transformational quality—an ability to transport us to places we fondly miss and those we’ve always hoped to visit—and Linda Dubin Garfield’s art is certainly no exception. On view right now at ArtsQuest, her Japan series takes us to the other side of the world, capturing the viewer in a dizzying mix of vibrant colors and bold shapes in this nature-centric exhibition.
Garfield is a Philadelphia-based artist who specializes in mixed-media. Her pieces, like those seen in the Japan series, often incorporate silkscreen, photography, image transfer, stenciling, collage, and a variety of other techniques. In her artist statement, Garfield notes that she is “intrigued by memory” and “inspired by travel,” and she uses both of these elements in her work to create “visual memoirs which offer multiple meanings to the viewer.”
This exhibition focuses on a series of works that Garfield created after returning from a recent trip to Japan, which involved visits to environmental havens such as the Japanese Alps. The Japan series was inspired by the Japanese concept of Shinrin-yoku (森林浴), otherwise known as the therapeutic practice of “forest bathing,” which Garfield explains as “losing yourself in the forest while enjoying the air, the scents, the vegetation and the sounds of birds and animals that live there.”
While each of Garfield’s work takes the viewer on a brilliant journey through Japanese wildlife, several pieces in particular lingered in my mind after leaving the gallery. Two of those include a pair entitled “Winter Sparkle I” and “Winter Sparkle II,” which were the largest and most central of those displayed. Each incorporates a similar backdrop: a photograph of skeleton-like trees with a thick blanket of snow covering the forest floor. There is something both haunting yet extraordinarily serene about the setting, and the bold, shimmering swirls stenciled over the image add a sense of enchantment and subtle, buzzing life to the seemingly-dead nature in the background. The color palette, consisting of mostly blues and grays, makes the scene feel as though it should be nostalgic to the viewer as we are forced to stop and meditate on this brief glimpse of serenity, participating in our own visual form of “forest bathing.”
Garfield’s other piece, “Green Landscape with Trees,” is not nearly as large as the two previously mentioned works but makes just as impactful a statement. The piece uses a vivid combination of oranges, pinks, blues, and greens to arrest the viewer in the striking palette. The collage technique used by Garfield creates strong lines and striking forms as several strips of paper rise vertically in the middle of the work, making it seem as though we are being invited to stroll through one of Japan’s bamboo forests with printed images of dark foliage composing the stalks. The viewer does not necessarily feel the tranquility evoked by other pieces but is instead invigorated by a sense of effervescence and energy, demonstrating another effect “forest bathing” can have on those who participate in the experience.
Linda Dubin Garfield’s Japan series is currently on display until May 12th in the Alvin H. Butz gallery on the second floor of the ArtsQuest Center. All of her pieces from this exhibition are for sale, and if you are interested in purchasing one, you can contact Hillary Harper, Senior Manager of Visual Arts. Garfield has another upcoming exhibition entitled Just My Type, which will be on view in the Banana Factory Arts Center from March 1st to May 27th.
For more information about the artist, her work, and upcoming shows, please visit her website.