An ethereal figure stood in the middle of the field on the first Saturday afternoon of summer. One by one, she instructed participants to take a deep breath before pouring a dark concoction of frankincense, Roman chamomile, rosewood, spruce, blue tansy, and lavender essential oils into their palms, instructing them rub their hands together, before imprinting them on a note card that turns into an artwork for the viewer to bring home. “It’s like the underbelly of a forest,” said the goddess-like woman, the artist Lia Chavez, who was executing a performance art piece The Order of Things, which was part of the opening of Infinite Seed, a group exhibition presented by curatorial collective Good To Know.FYI and Jess Hodin Levy on view through July 30 at Bhumi Farms in East Hampton.
“The intention behind my performance The Order of Things is to draw attention to how the art of being human relates to how we occupy our special place of privilege, power and responsibility in the natural world,” said Chavez. “Each person has the capacity in their hands to heal the world. At this present moment when we are not able to touch each other, I invite participants to ponder the restorative potential that lies within their own hands.”
Good To Know.FYI—which consists of Alex Valls, Julianna Vezzeti, and Juliana Steiner—and Jess Hodin Levy pondered over how art exhibitions should and would change over the next few months with the new risks and social distancing that come with the Covid-19 pandemic shutting down much of the United States over the past few months. They wanted to explore the need for collective healing and connection after being locked down for months.
“This past spring it became clear that in order for art exhibitions to take place this year, they were going to have to take on a very different shape and form,” said Hodin Levy. ”It coincided perfectly with the beginning of the summer and the ability to utilize the outdoors. But not only did the farm provide the ability for us to produce a show, the natural elements also provided a context within which to examine the themes of healing and interpersonal connection that we wished to explore during this time of coronavirus isolation. As such, the metaphysical emerged as a central theme of the show, and we coincidentally found that many artists who work in weather-resistant mediums were also very interested in this concept.”
Valls explained the concept of the exhibition’s title, Infinite Seed. “The name is derived from the concept of healing and growth in consideration to the farm, the elements of nature, the earth, the seeds that bring upon conception, and in recognition of that which allows for the seed’s growth: the sunlight, the sky and the vast universe in which we exist,” she said. “It is sort of a humbling and grounding way of looking at ourselves that invites metaphysical transcendence, as Virginia Woolf once asked, ‘When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?’ Albeit prolific, we are just some small seeds within a whole planetary system. We feel this perspective helps to alleviate current anxieties.”
Good To Know.FYI and Hodin Levy searched for artists who fit both the physical and theoretical limits of the space and exhibition. “As curators, we are constantly researching, and in general connecting with, contemporary artists, both from our own networks of relationships and also through new exploration,” said Vezzetti. “We narrowed down our investigation to artists whose works would be able to exist outdoors for extended periods of time, as well as artists whose works connected to the theme of the metaphysical and the healing power of nature. We always try to work with artists of different backgrounds and experiences, as well as integrate local artists who have a connection to the site and to the local community.” The curators narrowed their selection for the outdoor exhibition to artists Miya Ando, Chavez, Hayden Dunham, Fitzhugh Karol, Joiri Minaya, Alex Valls, Manuela Viera-Gallo, Mark Wilson, and Nick van Woert.
Ando looked to her Japanese heritage and the architecture of the Japanese Chashitsu (Tea Room), which dates back over 1,000 years to create a Moon Meditation Hut of linen sheets dyed blue with Indigo ink with a bright white full moon beaming at the center. Ando explained that in ancient times, tea rooms were gathering places with no hierarchical distinction, so that samurai, merchants, monks, and tea hosts were all equals. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the hut in any way they like. “My hope was to create a site-specific installation on Bhumi Farm inspired by the concept of Wa Kei Sei Jyaku (harmony, respect, purity and tranquility); a simple, meditative space to connect with nature and others and become aware of the present moment,” said Ando.
Viera-Gallo touched on the increased risks of domestic violence during lockdown through a series of hanging sculptures titled Violencia Domestica (Reconstruction) composed of jagged pieces from broken plates tied together with rope. “The objects look dangerous: sharp, pointed, and capable of harm. Yet they hang inert—as implicit proof, rather, of violent action,” said Viera-Gallo. “As an immersive record, these sterile choreographies of debris allude to the abuse of women and the comfortably concealed tragedy of domestic violence.”
Valls, who is also an artist, displayed a series of winding ceramic sculptures that she created in isolation in Miami during quarantine along a field. “The placement of the works between the crop rows reference the parallel I see between the primative, yet essential act of working with organic materials and one’s hands; as a farmer would to cultivate crops, an artist would to develop their own fruits of labor,” said Valls. Chavez also exhibited a mirrored, kaleidoscopic work. “This kaleidoscopic, at times vertiginous experiential sculpture aims to connect the viewer distinctly to the intimate rituals of luminosity,” she said. Wilson’s 2020 abstract work Portrait of God, sits in a tree perched above the audience.
The curators hope to highlight Bhumi Farms’s harvest donations to communities of high-risk food insecurity through New York Common Pantry, and they also plan to have programming throughout the summer that includes sound meditation and reiki. They also hope the exhibition benefits the artists, whose practices were impacted by Covid-19, by providing a platform for which to sell their work. “As curators, we hope the show is able to set new ways in which art can be found and experienced, even in these strange times,” said Steiner. “As galleries and museums continue to remain closed, art practitioners need to rethink ways to engender new and meaningful experiences with art.”