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Human/Nature, curated by Julie K. Gray, opens on July 29 and will show through August 20 at Engine. Artists included are Ed Bennett, Toni Jo Coppa, Stacy Howe, Robin Koss, Mike Libby, and Eric Vaughn.
Human/Nature explores the ways in which contemporary artists explore, interpret and are inspired by the “natural” world. Collaging, piecing together, conceptualizing and re-inventing imagery, objects and ideas of nature, these artists consequently both push and redefine the term “nature” itself.
TONI JO COPPA: “Portland artist Toni Jo Coppa has created a menagerie of unnatural personal history. Working with materials that include altered taxidermy forms, plastic foams, papier-mâché, clay, plaster, artificial eyes and teeth, and found objects, these beasts have infiltrated this eccentric old museum. As one descends into the Mammal Room, a dark tapir-like animal appears on top of one of the display cabinets surrounded by a few sprigs of vegetation.” – The Interlopers, Toni Jo Coppa at the LC Bates Museum by Jacob Fall, The Chart.
STACY HOWE: Portland, Maine, artist Stacy Howe creates sanguinary assemblages on paper. Using extremes of beauty, horror, and the commonplace she works to make these themes compatible if not interchangeable. She renders objects of material excess and polite society while tracing their links to barbarism and how we socially construct nature through etiquette. Through a process of Surrealist inspired automatism Howe has come to produce a series of assemblages. Surrealist notions of dream imagery, games of chance, and the marriage of contraries are employed to meld incongruous forms which are then harmonized through ornamentation. Howe’s works are composed of an amalgamation of her objects of fascination. The reoccurring themes of her work have fused and been released on paper for later synthesis. Her natural tendency is to use symbolic forms of the Gothic, imbuing the inanimate with emotion, the allure of violence, the drive towards death, and the return to the primordial.
ROBIN KOSS: Portland, Maine artist Robin Koss’ work suggests a journey through an imagined landscape. Drawing from an exploration of natural and constructed environments, Koss is able to create intricately woven images that are both recognizable and abstracted at once. Physically layering elements within a composition echoes the process of remembering, as images fade away and reappear, producing a dynamic web of sensory information and visual imagery. The deconstruction or pulling apart of layers becomes a form of excavation, an action that reveals glimpses of a different time and place. It is through the process of reconstruction that unique spaces are invented, materializing out of real experience, yet transforming into something entirely new.
MIKE LIBBY: Portland, Maine artist Mike Libby (b 1976), creator of INSECT LAB since 1999, is a multi-disciplinary artist who makes sculptures, models, collages and drawings using diverse materials, conceptual curiosity, and diligent craftsmanship to balance it all.  Mike exhibits throughout the US and in parts of Europe, his work is in collections national and worldwide.   He enjoys being an active member of his local community in Southern Maine as a visiting artist at several educational institutions, an entrepreneur and an advocate for personal and social creativity.
ERIC VAUGHN: Cleveland, Ohio artist Eric Vaughn is an artist, educator, and photographer. Through his art practice, Vaughn seeks to elicit ideas utilizing the means of making, the formal display, and the contemporary discourse regarding photographs, to address experiences of everyday life and the constructs of subjective knowledge. Retaining the
photographic trace of observable phenomena operates as a guiding principle in his art practice through which essential tenets of the medium are both critiqued and used to demonstrate key