The visual arts department invited artist Jenny Yurshansky on campus to serve as the Upper School’s first artist in residence. Yurshansky’s exhibition “Blacklisted: A Planted Allegory” in Feldman-Horn gallery was opened to the community on Friday.
The Artist in Residence program invites an artist on campus to exhibit their artwork and teach classes about their artistic medium . The Middle School has been hosting artists for several years and will continue doing so this year.
The exhibition included a large scale projection of plant portraits,a hand cut silhouette in the style of an herbarium plant pressing and a book consisting of the stories of the 133 plants used in her project.
“Here in California, a lot of the plants are on what is called the Blacklist,” Yurshansky said. “They are often plants that people brought from the place of origin they were migrating from. I wanted to find a way to talk about this topic of migration without wagging my finger at people and talking through something that is familiar and almost nonthreatening.”
Artist speaks about her inspiration for the project
Yurshansky said while living in a Scandinavian forest for five years, she began developing the ability to read the landscape through plants. Yurshansky, a child of refugees, realized that like the invasive plants around her, immigrants like herself are also viewed as unwanted at times, she said.
“It’s a really rewarding feeling to see your artwork spark a conversation,” Yurshansky said. “It’s about conversation. It’s being in dialogue with institutions and having a back and forth about what my concerns are and why I’m even creating this work.”
The visual arts department plans to institute a visiting artist series each year, which is currently in place at the Middle School with the Arlene Schnitzer Grant, visual arts teacher Alexandra Pacheco Garcia said.
“I think it is so valuable for students to have interaction with professional artists, ” Pacheco Garcia said. “She represents to us a really amazing example of interdisciplinary studies and sustained investigations. The way that she connects with history in her research, the writing aspect of it, science, botany, it touches on all these different disciplines.”
Student reflects on the exhibition
Art student Cleo Maloney ’21 said Yurshansky’s multidisciplinary approach to the topic of immigration inspired her.
“I’m certain her pieces will impact how I paint, create, or even how I see plants when I’m hiking,” Maloney said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why I love art, since it changes perception.”
The exhibition will be displayed from Jan. 6 to Feb. 7.