“Beg, Steal or Borrow: It’s Nature that Takes the Blame,” a unique and vibrant exhibit, opened last weekend over Deerfield Parents Weekend and is on display until early June. The exhibit was curated by Adrienne Conzelman, owner of A.R.C Fine Art LLC and the mother of Nicky ’16 and Carolina ’18 Conzelman. The works were created by Jason Middlebrook, a contemporary artist who focuses on various forms of art, including sculptures and installation art.
Adrienne Conzelman specializes in contemporary art in a variety of media, and has worked in the field for two decades. She was also an advisor to curators before opening her own private gallery. In terms of how Conzelman decided to bring Middlebrook’s art to Deerfield, she said, “When I first saw the spaces and thought of his work, the soaring verticality of his planks seemed as though they could be shown to their fullest advantage in this space.”
Conzelman views the combination of painting and sculpture in Middlebrook’s work as a very unique interplay of the two disciplines. Conzelman collaborated with Lydia Hemphill, Deerfield’s Director of Studies, in bringing Middlebrook’s exhibit to Deerfield. Conzelman said, “Lydia was very gracious to welcome Jason Middlebrook’s exhibit, and hopefully his artwork will be the first of a great partnership between A.R.C and Deerfield Academy.”
Middlebrook’s show, titled “Beg, Steal or Borrow: It’s Nature that Takes the Blame,” hopes to emphasize that humans are to blame for nature’s suffering. This plays into the purpose of the Von Auersperg Gallery, which, according to Ms. Taylor, is “to bring different voices to the community, open a conversation, and to break down stereotypes.” Middlebrook’s art represents the irony of the ethical view humans grant themselves of their destruction of nature.
Nature is accentuated through Middlebrook’s use of wood and its natural shapes as a canvas for his artwork. Middlebrook noted: “The trees I use have lived a significant life, being between 100 and 200 years old. Therefore, painting on top of their wood pays homage to the time these trees spent improving lives throughout our planet.”
The wood used in the exhibit comes from a
mill in Sheffield, MA. Middlebrook said that the wood speaks to him, and he envisions his paintings as he chooses the wood. He has been creating these forms of wood paintings for close to 25 years, and the process has evolved naturally.
Many students have attended and thoroughly enjoyed Middlebrook’s exhibit. Tommy Whiteley, ‘18, said, “Middlebrook’s work is a beautifully evocative combination of natural and man-made beauty. Speaking to Middlebrook about his artistic process while surrounded by his works was an incredibly unique experience.”
Hatty Wang ‘16 added, “Jason Middlebrook’s works are so elegant in their simplicity. His designs accentuate the original patterns on the wood, and skilfully present human and nature in unison.”
The exhibit of wood paintings and drawings presents an opportunity for Deerfield students as individuals and as a community to respect nature and contemplate how it can be restored to its original beauty. It has also highlighted how engaging art forms can send a meaningful message to our community and stimulate important conversations.