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Final exhibit in environment and ecology art series opens – The Elm
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Final exhibit in environment and ecology art series opens – The Elm

Final exhibit in environment and ecology art series opens – The Elm

By Heather Fabritze
Elm Staff Writer

PRY, Kohl Gallery’s latest art exhibition, opened on Tuesday, January 25th with an installation in the Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts as well as a sister installation on the public walking path outside the Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall.

The exhibition will close on March 4th. It was designed by Stephanie Garon, a poet and artist who had Chestertown in mind. The Maryland State Arts Council and Kent Cultural Alliance funded the project. It is a collaboration between Washington Colleges Center for Environment and Society and River and Field Campus and Kohl Gallery.

 PRY is entirely modeled around the invasive plant species Phragmites australis, more often known as common reed, and the danger it poses to the local environment.

According to the informational leaflet, the species has a rhizomatic roots system that makes it difficult for them to be removed or controlled.

The piece features prominently the root system. The pamphlet describes how the root system is prominently displayed in the piece. The severed roots are visible above the ground while the plumes attempt to reach the gallery ceiling. The walls can be shadowed by the plants thanks to the purposely placed lighting.

The exhibit also has a written component, with a poem Garon wrote printed on the wall.

Tara Gladden is the Director and Curator at Kohl Gallery and Lecturer for Studio Art. She believes that all of these elements together make the exhibit very enveloping.

Gladden explained that this is an immersive, site-specific installation. Gladden said that there is an element of immersion when you walk into a space. The environment plays a video, the environment includes the plant species and the arrangement of the plants…So, youre being engaged on a visual level, on a sonic level, on a visceral level, on a more poetic level. You are being engaged at many different levels of perception.

The exhibit’s video section features clips from Garons field work. Garon pulled the plants from the Chester riverbank and created the piece.

According to the pamphlet this was a significant process for Garons as it serves as a powerful reminder of how the environmental crisis is disproportionately borne by women around the world. Many of Garons’ other works also address the issue of women’s involvement in the environment crisis.

There was also a large community element to this project. The Kohl Gallery hosted workshops in Chestertown over the past year, which allowed students from Chestertown to take part in the removal.

The Kohl Gallery exhibit is echoed by the sister installation at Semans-Griswold. The public structure is made out of steel and is integrated with the reeds that surround it.

Gladden believes that the steel reeds’ natural movement conveys similar themes and messages.

Gladden said that they sway with wind and look very natural. Yet, Gladden added them to the land. It’s interesting to consider removing and adding.

According to the pamphlet the reeds were intended to remind humanity of its hubris and nature’s fragile intractability.

Gladden hopes visitors take away one lesson from PRY: the idea that you must be mindful of your actions.

Gladden stated that there is a greater awareness of how we impact the environment and our human relationship to the environment. Also, a greater appreciation for the ways art can address topics such ecology, the environment, permanence and impermanence in an inter-disciplinary manner. The power of art to explore many topics and the breadth that art offers to explore these topics in unique ways that are individual to each person.

You can view the exhibit by visiting the Kohl Gallery’s visiting hours on the WC Website. Garon will host an artist talk and gallery viewing on February 10th at 6 pm in Tawes Theatre, Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts. Her website,, has more information about her work.

Kayla Thornton photo

Featured photo caption: The PRY exhibit was opened by Kohl Gallery on January 25th at two locations on the Washington College campus. The Daniel Z. Gibson Center for the Arts houses part of the installation, while the other is located outside the Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall. The exhibit is centered on Phragmites australis, an invasive species of plants.

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