Gail M. Brown, Curator

Karen Gunderman
hand-built white stoneware, glazes
32 x 106 x 4"


CJ Jilek
stoneware, underglazes; detail of HER
21 x 35 x 24"


Jenni Ward
12 x 48 x 48"

The NCECA Annual, exhibition 2017


References and images of nature and gardens, of common and exotic species and flights of fancy, real and imaginary, abound in the visual arts. A most recurring and referential one in western art history may be the first, the Garden of Eden- the moment marked, a lush and fecund habitat turning from a place of pleasure and safety, to its inhabitants’ acts of disobedience, the consequent fall from grace, pending expulsion and loss. Too numerous to count, visual scenarios built and flourished from that biblical reference. These inspirations and connections to the natural world, wild or adapted, physically or psychologically, echo the human need for place, sustainment and solace. And offer cinematic setting, dramatis personae and emotional narrative for thus inspired artists.

Real time moved forward- from largely migratory living to settlement and stationary farming, from nutritional to medicinal purposes- the uses of planted land spiraled. The designed garden- an imagined, planned, dedicated space set aside for farming, display and tactile pleasures- came to be. The cultivation and selection of plants for the enjoyment of their beauty and variety marked significant cultural milestones. For example, Tulipmania, a term coined for such a trend in its extreme, defined that combination of acquisitive passion for hybrid plant forms and frenetic commerce.

Floral imagery, garden and natural references are constant, abundant and of timeless interest, as decorative, symbolic and conceptual characteristics, as are participatory garden plots and window boxes, public parks and the National Park Service and now, the ever growing sensitivity to global fragility and preciousness of finite natural resources. Portland, the City of Roses, was named as such in 1889 when the Rose Society was founded and promoted by the planting of 20 miles of rose bushes in advance of the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition. The interest still flourishes; it seductively abounds in this city of lush public and private gardens and the climate to nurture them.

Disjecta Contemporary Art Center
Portland, OR
March, 2017

Curator's Full Essay

Exhibit Catalog (3.5mb PDF)

NCECA external Web site


Christopher Adams
JoAnn Axford
Lisa Marie Barber
Chris Berti
Megan Bogonovich
Jess Riva Cooper
Deirdre Daw
Audry Deal- McEver
Jennifer DePaolo
Kim Dickey
Shannon Donovan
Caroline Earley
Carol Gouthro
Karen Gunderman
Dawn Holder
Cj Jilek
Chuck Johnson
Tsehai Johnson

  Heather Kaplan
Paul Kotula
Annie Rhodes Lee
Nancy Lovendahl
Andrea Marquis
Lindsay Montgomery
Grace Nickel
Anne Drew Potter
Jessica Putnam-Phillips
Dori Schechtel Zanger
Linda Sormin
Dirk Staschke
Claudia Tarantino
Hirotsune Tashima
Colleen Toledano
Jenni Ward
Stan Welsh

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