D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center galleries take to the forest for Soul of a Tree, on view February 20 through April 20, with a reception with the artists on Friday, March 16, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. and a special evening with Mira Nakashima on March 22. Light refreshments will be served. Artists include Tasha O’Neill’s “Forest Bathing,” John Napoli, Michael Pascucci and Sean Carney. RSVP for reception at (609) 924-4646 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. www.drgreenway.org.
Princeton, N.J.– D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center galleries take to the forest for Soul of a Tree, on view February 20 through April 20, with a reception with the artists on Friday, March 16, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. Artists include Tasha O’Neill’s “Forest Bathing”, John Napoli, Michael Pascucci and Sean Carney. This exhibit highlights the healing power and inspiration of the woods. RSVP for reception at (609) 924-4646 or email@example.com. Gallery hours Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. www.drgreenway.org.
A special evening on March 22 with Mira Nakashima, daughter of world-class wood sculptor George Nakashima, will include a talk about the family’s woodworking legacy and a book-signing of Mira’s book, Nature Form and Spirit: The Life and Legacy of George Nakashima. A second book will also be available for sale, aptly titled The Soul of a Tree: A Master Woodworker’s Reflections.
Nakashima pieces will be displayed and available for purchase as part of the exhibition at both the Opening Reception on March 16 and on the evening of March 22. Pieces will include a three-legged stool, candle holders, pencil holders and bread boards. This is a unique opportunity to both own a Nakashima piece of art and support conservation of trees and forests.
“Wood is more than a medium, it is a celebration, a meditation, and an inspiration to these four gifted artists,” says Curator Diana Moore. “The range of interpretations, from a healing wooded walk to intensely dappled colors, all are indicative of the talent to see the forest AND the trees.”
Scientific studies have found both physical and psychological health benefits of walking in the forest. Results show that forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol (a stress hormone); lower pulse rate; lower blood pressure; greater parasympathetic nerve activity; and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments. These results lead to a path for preventive medicine.
Accessible green space is also good for psychological well-being. Large-scale surveys in the Netherlands and UK have shown that individuals living in urban areas with more green space have lower rates of mental health distress and are more satisfied with life than those living in areas with less green space.
Other studies show that exposure to natural environments reduces negative emotions, including anger, anxiety and sadness. Simply viewing images of nature or looking at natural environments through a window can reduce stress, enhance recovery from illness and surgery and improve mood.
To quote Robert Louis Stevenson:
It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
In 1982, the Forest Agency of the Japanese government premiered its shinrin-yoku plan. In Japanese shinrin means forest, and yoku, although it has several meanings, refers here to a “bathing, showering or basking in.”
More broadly, it is defined as “taking in, in all of our senses, the forest atmosphere.”
The shinrin-yoku program was established to encourage people to get out into nature, to literally bathe the mind and body in green space, and take advantage of public owned forest networks as a means of promoting health.
Fine art photographer Tasha O’Neill, who grew up in Germany (“I first saw the world from the back of a VW Beetle”), says “my family was dedicated to regular excursions that would qualify as shinrin-yoku today. My maternal grandparents spent as much of their leisure time as possible hiking the Alps, my grandfather dressed in a suit and grandmother in a long dress, always with a picnic in a backpack.”
Almost every Sunday, O’Neill’s mother would take her brother and herself to nearby mountains to walk, explore, learn about wild plants and berries, and nap in the meadow. “With our faces so close to the flowers, the gentle buzzing of insects lulled us to sleep,” she recalls.
She credits her power of observation to her mother’s influence. “She was forever pointing out plants, berries, critters and other items of interest to her, but not necessarily to me in those days.”
Language studies took O’Neill to England, France and Italy, and her quest for adventure brought her to Princeton in 1973 where “I experienced a photographic epiphany among frost flowers along the D&R Canal.” Summers spent in Maine kindled a fascination with dew. “During early morning photography treks I find familiar objects transformed into abstraction by dew.”
O’Neill has been a member of Hopewell’s Gallery 14 and the Princeton-based group Art+10. Curator of the Verde Art Gallery in Kingston, her work has frequently been featured at D&R Greenway.
John Napoli paints from a tree’s perspective. In fact, he built a special treehouse studio to position himself amongst the trees. In Franklin Park, Napoli’s treehouse studio overlooks the Sourland Mountains. “Working in a conventional studio environment (inside, artificially lit) started to feel stifling,” he says. “My intention was to find a way to capture experiences in nature in real-time. The impact of changing light on the landscape, the continuously changing skies, the look of the world around—I was driven to capture the essence of the unfolding of creation in nature.”
He rises before sunrise to climb the structure he designed and built himself—he keeps it warm during winters with a pellet stove. With a panoramic view, facing west across the field, “sunsets are typically spectacular and the entire experience of being 30 feet high offers a vantage point where you merge with nature,” Napoli says. “You’re living with the forest creatures, watching the wildlife venture across the wild fields while overlooking the mountains off in the distance.”
The tree feels different during varying seasonal and weather conditions, and the gradually changing continuum of nature becomes apparent every day. “There are so many elements that contribute to the overall experience that the ambience is nothing short of magical,” he says. “These experiences have altered my palette, caused me to reconsider the format of a painting and how it is experienced, and helps me capture more than a point in time, more of a flow of nature, a dynamic neo-naturalism.”
Sean Carney’s artwork is made on wood with wood stain. He focuses on architecture, familiar and foreign, using the materials and root inspiration of the forest. “As a fine artist I feel the need to touch every medium,” says Carney, who won a 2016 Mercer County Cultural & Heritage Purchase Award. His works on wood are done using only wood stain and a dremel in a careful layering process he has invented and honed. “Through experimentation with different types of water-based stains I have been able to expand my pallet and texture. My paintings look like traditional paintings from a distance, but upon closer inspection you gain a realization that they are not traditional at all.”
His subjects include Michael Graves’ Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, Art All Night, the Capital City and scenes along the Delaware River. Solo shows have been at the Arts Council of Princeton, Artworks Trenton and numerous galleries. With a bachelor’s of fine art degree from New Jersey City University, he has also studied at the School of Visual Arts,Fashion Institute of Technology and Montserrat College of Art.
Michael Pascucci creatures sculpture in a figurative abstract style to express the human condition. “Art triggers our imagination and becomes a means for transcendental feelings about our universal connectedness,” says Pascucci. “As a sculptor, I am inspired by the wonder and awe of how shapes and forms are assembled and integrated into the incredible well-structured and beautiful designs that we find in Nature. The world has such beauty, which is the evidence of the harmony, balance and order that we witness in the natural world… Ultimately, we learn or feel from the works that there is more about being human than meets the eye.”
Pascucci was runner up for the 2016 Trenton City Museum Ellarslie Open 33 Sculpture Award and winner of the 2015 Phillips’ Mill Patrons’ Award for Sculpture.
D&R GREENWAY LAND TRUST IS IN ITS 29TH YEAR of preserving and protecting natural lands, farmlands and open spaces throughout central and southern New Jersey. Through continuous preservation and stewardship — caring for land and easements to ensure they remain protected and ecologically healthy in perpetuity — D&R Greenway nurtures a healthier and more diverse environment for people and wild species in seven counties. Accredited by the national Land Trust Accreditation Commission, D&R Greenway’s mission is to preserve and care for land and inspire a conservation ethic, now and for the future. Since its founding in 1989, D&R Greenway has permanently preserved more than 20,000 acres, an area 20 times the size of New York City’s Central Park, including 30 miles of trails open to the public. The Johnson Education Center, a circa 1900 restored barn at One Preservation Place, Princeton, is D&R Greenway’s home. Through programs, art exhibits and related lectures, D&R Greenway inspires greater public commitment to safeguarding land.