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Artwork by Cynthia MacCollum. On display August 16 - October 5, 2014.

Cynthia MacCollum’s painting and printmaking have always focused on life itself, on all things organic. One of her goals in creating art is to visually express intangible feelings and intrinsic knowledge. Recently, she has trained her attention on the human desire—and certainly, her own desire—to reconnect with nature and the natural cycles of the Earth. As a child, MacCollum spent many, many hours playing in the creek and pond in the woods behind her house, where she and her brother collected crawfish and tadpoles. Her relationship with nature—with the world of her yard and the woods beyond—was up-close and personal. It appears to her symptomatic of our current society that our disconnection from nature continues to deepen.

She has also always loved and been inspired by science, in particular by the contrast between the macro scale of time, and the micro quality of imagery. So evolved her idea for this exhibition, Continuum, a geologic history of life on Earth. Not only was she intellectually and artistically drawn to a pictorial exploration of wildly varied life forms, but the depiction of the miniscule amount of time that man has been on Earth—and the changes wrought by man in this brief period of geologic time—felt urgently important and significant.

It would be impossible for MacCollum’s work to be anything but gorgeous, and so the focus here is, of course, on the beauty of the forms organic life has taken on Earth. Nevertheless, a warning is implied: We are in the age of the sixth great mass extinction on our planet, and it is being caused by man. Encapsulated into this body of work is the idea of man as a part of nature, that we are nature, another part of the continuum of life on Earth. There is an attempt to capture the grace of it all, but also to hint at the threat that man poses to himself and to all existence.

The idea to include an actual timeline came from MacCollum’s children and their many timelines done over the years for their social studies classes. MacCollum fell in love with the idea of blowing up the scale of time so that we could experience it by walking through the exhibition’s space. In its compressed geologic reality, Continuum invites a new appreciation for the quantity and quality of time covered.