Exhibits highlight work of artists Holli Harmon and Nicole Strasburg

Staff Report

As the saying goes, all clouds have silver linings. The Wildling Museum of Art and Nature is kicking off 2021 with an invitation for the public to experience two new art installations by artists Holli Harmon and Nicole Strasburg that may be viewed from the outside-in during its ongoing public closure due to state and local COVID-19 public health mandates for indoor museums. 

In the museum’s new Tower Gallery installation, “Holli Harmon: The Nature of Clouds,” artist Harmon’s immersive work centers around a Norfolk Island Pine tree floating beneath bright blue, cumulus cloud-filled skies. Large chandelier crystals hang suspended by invisible thread from ceiling to floor in a brilliant rain shower as plants are suspended throughout at varying heights. These plants — made up of kokedama moss balls — are planted with coleus, spider plants and various succulents. Centered beneath the suspended crystals and plants are three weathered eucalyptus tree stumps, their faces covered with mirrors to reflect the sky and patterns above. The exhibition will be on view through fall 2021.

Clouds have been an inspiring source material for Harmon since 2016 when she first began her work on “The River’s Journey” exhibition project, exploring the Santa Ynez River and examining all elements of the water cycle. 

“I learned that this transpiration circle begins and ends in the clouds — water’s highest source,” says Harmon.

Harmon’s process included research in all its forms, from scientific to poetic. She said she became particularly inspired by 19th century British meteorologist Luke Howard’s cloud classification system, as well as cloud poetry by writer Johann Goethe and contemporary poet Mark Strand.

“This current installation is my newest interpretation of the transpiration of water from earth, to plants, to sky,” Harmon said. “The work is partially inspired by author Richard Hamblyn’s book, ‘The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies,’ about early meteorologist Luke Howard.”

The added plants in her Tower Gallery installation were born out of a new fascination with the Japanese floral art form of “kokedama,” or string gardens.

“Through quarantine, these literally became my ‘growing’ obsession and the perfect foil for the idea of water transpiration from earth to plant to sky to cloud to rain,” Harmon said.

Accompanying the new Tower Gallery exhibition is a window art installation titled “Wintering: A Fox Tale”by artist Nicole Strasburg. The series of papercut fox silhouettes was specially designed by Strasburg to bring joy and wonder to passersby during the museum’s extended closure. The public is invited to enjoy the works — which are illuminated at night — through spring 2021.

Three of the windows included in artist Nicole Strasburg’s installation “Wintering: A Fox Tale” on view now at the Wildling Museum through spring 2021.

“We wanted to create something exciting for the windows that would let everyone know we were only hibernating, not closed forever,” Strasburg said. “With my love for animals and the fox being the Wildling Museum mascot, it seemed fitting to do something with a fox theme.”

Strasburg’s intricate papercutting technique transformed the museum’s windows into a dramatic winter landscape once lit. 

“Wintering and hibernating are not always a dormant time, it’s also a time of great imagination and rejuvenation, a time to recharge,” she said. “Designing and cutting the paper images as well as configuring the armature to hold the creation were a wonderful way to pass the time in quarantine with the added benefit of bringing attention to the museum.”

Both Harmon and Strasburg generously donated their time to the Wildling Museum in a joint effort to find creative ways to bring visibility to the museum while continuing to inspire and engage audiences during the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on indoor museums. 

We’d love to see your photos! The Wildling Museum invites viewers to share photos of their experiences with both of the new installations and tag the museum on social media at @wildlingmuseum or email info@wildlingmusuem.org