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Nature and art at El Charco

By Honey Sharp

An immersion in both nature and art is a perfect recipe for enchantment. I was reminded of this while wandering through the new and extensive Land Art exhibit, now in its fourth year at El Charco del Ingenio. With sculptural works interwoven with the environment, we are offered yet another way to appreciate this vast botanical garden and nature reserve.

A number of fundamental ingredients make for “land art” or “earthworks,” a term coined in the 1960s. To start; by choosing and working with surrounding natural materials: reeds, twigs, nests, rocks, epiphytes, sisal, ocotillo, nopal, both living and dried – to mention just a few – the materials take on a new identity. We see them with fresh eyes.

Land art is also inherently site-specific. The works are not simply placed in the landscape; rather, the landscape becomes their means of creation. And, like nature, the works are ephemeral, (as a few remnants of past year exhibits can testify).

With a wide variety not only of materials but of potential sites from a rocky canyon to the presa inhabited by aquatic plants and birds, the participants in this juried show have much to choose from. Their creations range from a large-scale mowed grass star-like pattern on a distant hill to small altar-like pieces. One may even come across a series of minimalist, conceptual wooden frames that define a “borrowed landscape”—or call it: a “borrowed painting.”

The more whimsical and crafted pieces especially struck my fancy. On a pathway to the Conservatory, I was suddenly greeted by a row of small, bright red nopal tunas leading like small gnomes to a stately, tree-like dried nopal punctuated by green pads. Life and Death.

Other whimsical works abound. Closer to the presa awaits “El Santuario de Rana” (“The Sanctuary of a Frog”). Set on the ground near the water, this black and white stone mosaic reminded me of the ancient Peruvian Nazca Lines depicting various creatures and decipherable only from high above. Here we have Rana who, by inhabiting both water and land, is revered for its sacred magical properties. Other intriguing and well-designed pieces include an impressive libélula or dragonfly and a spider’s web where delicate, sisal rope flows into a tunnel-like cone and a second web.

Finally, in the spirit of El Charco’s educational mission, awaits a thought-provoking collaborative work by members of the staff. Called “La Dulce Ausencia de la Vida” (“The Sweet Absence of Life”), its message is about earth’s precarious nature. Enveloping the trunk of a tree, densely woven leafy branches are visited by bees and other insects made from fibers and ocotillo.

With 15 works by artists from the state of Guanajuato and Mexico City there is much to explore, revel in and ponder in El Charco del Ingenio where a fusion of art and nature overflows.


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