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Madison exhibition spotlights MIAD professor, alum

people view a root-like structure hanging from the ceiling in an exhibition

installation view, When Trees Dream, South Dakota Art Museum (curated by Rina Yoon)

Madison Arts + Literature Laboratory hosts the exhibition “The Shape of the Environment,” curated by Lelia Byron, which seeks to “​​convey the importance of different environmental issues for people across the globe.” The 13 exhibiting creatives, mostly from Madison and surrounding areas in the Midwest, contributed artist’s statements and essays in addition to their artworks, which Byron compiled into a highly popular zine, available online. Nirmal Raja ’08, who studied Painting at MIAD and Rina Yoon, Professor of Art in New Studio Practice: Fine Arts, are both exhibiting work in the show and contributed to the zine. 

“Cloud Palace,” created by Raja, weaves together themes of the subconscious “ink-blot” interpretation of clouds and their significance as anticipated carriers of the monsoon season in India, all the while taking inspiration from an epic poem by 4th century Indian poet Kalidasa called “Meghdootam” or “cloud messenger.” Raja, in her contribution to the zine, writes that the poem inspired her to “create a work where the viewer experiences a sense of weightlessness and levitation but one that also provokes a sense of romantic imagination.”

Yoon’s work speaks to the interconnectedness of the environment and its life cycles. Her installation “Bighorn Fire,” using found burnt wood and ashes from the burn site of Tucson’s Bighorn fire, as well as hand-coiled mulberry paper, explores the “paradox at the heart of tree life,” together with the “violence of wildfires and the spontaneity of unexpected growth in its aftermath.” In her artist’s statement, she says she felt “connected to the beauty, horror, and resilience of nature.” Her practice as an artist is also rooted in Buddhism, and the slow process of hand-coiling paper, as well as creating the Mesquite print/paper works also featured in the exhibition, was meditative for Yoon. 

In her 23rd year as a professor at MIAD, Yoon finds it “deeply satisfying to see how these young people evolve into talented artists and interesting adults. It is an honor to be part of a community that fosters such creative growth.” She hopes young creatives remember that “Art keeps us aware of what goes on in our lives and what we need to be mindful of.” Yoon recently curated “When Trees Dream” with John Schuerman, which is on view at the South Dakota Art Museum until January 21, 2023, and is currently collaborating with poet Blas Falconer (UCLA) for the upcoming Poetic Dialogue Project: Tapestry of Voices in October of 2023. 

There is still time to view “The Shape of the Environment” at Madison’s Arts + Literature Lab, which runs until November 4, 2022. Learn more about the exhibition and about MIAD’s New Studio Practice: Fine Arts major!

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