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Bunny Harvey Exhibits Survival Tactics in AUP Fine Arts Gallery

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Between November 19 and December 9, 2019, the AUP Fine Arts Gallery hosted a special exhibition by American painter Bunny Harvey, titled Survival Tactics, which focused on the unseen elements of urban spaces and, in particular, plants that are considered invasive. The vernissage for the exhibition, which was well attended by members of the AUP community, took place on November 21.

The exhibition was a continuation of several intertwining themes that have recurred throughout Harvey’s career: the idea of hidden or unseen elements in traditional landscapes; an appreciation of scale, drawn from the artist’s fascination with particle physics; and an interest in the taxonomy and life cycles of plants and flowers. “I never wanted to be a landscape painter,” she explained. “I was an abstract painter!” Working between her studios in New York City and Vermont, Harvey explores these concepts through imagined landscapes. “I’m not painting from observation on the spot. I’m painting from observations over a lifetime.”

The name Survival Tactics refers to the interdependence of certain elements within her landscapes, and the ways in which these elements communicate with each other. “These opportunistic seeds find a way,” she explained, referring to the plants, many of which are traditionally labeled as weeds, that adorned the paintings chosen for the exhibition. Another recurring motif was chain-link fencing, which Harvey noted had a deeper social meaning, evoking the modern-day detention centers on the US–Mexico border.

Though she doesn’t view her work as inherently political, Harvey does believe that making art is a political process. This was something she sought to pass on to her students when she worked as an art teacher. “The political agenda lies beneath what I teach,” she explained. “Mostly what happens in my classes is a kind of openness to criticism and questioning.” Her advice to students was to actively engage in collaboration and discussion before settling on a unique voice; she believes that this process gives artists the ability to create work that requires depth and time to access. “There's no such thing as inspiration – you have to work! No matter what your field is.”

The AUP Fine Arts Gallery was established in 2004 to display works by both professional artists and members of the AUP community. Curated by Professor Jonathan Shimony, the gallery hosts new vernissages roughly once every three weeks, and the exhibition schedule is often booked up over a year in advance. Exhibited artists are encouraged to donate a work to the University’s permanent collection, so the entire AUP community can benefit from regular exposure to the arts on campus.