In Manhattan or anywhere in the tri-state area – where the words hustle and bustle are placed somewhere in our daily mantra– the opportunity to observe nature is usually far and few between. Everyone knows the idiom, “Can’t see the woods for the trees.” But in the case of Mary Hrbacek, she sees the trees, the woods and the world that exists within.
I first met Hrbacek during a dinner with respected art advisor Katharine T. Carter. The description of her work fascinated me. Recently I visited Hrbacek’s studio in Harlem to view her art and was pleasantly surprised to find that she is not only an artist, but a curator of nature.
Hrbacek uses trunks, leaves and branches to compose work that exposes the symbiotic relationship that exists between man and the habitat in which we live in. Before my visit, I viewed some of her art online and found it to be interesting, but in-person Hrbacek’s work became animated silhouettes – characters anxious to take their cue onto the proverbial stage of life.
Indeed everyone and everything has a story to tell. Found in Brooklyn, Central Park, Vermont and other places Hrbacek has traveled, the trees selected in her pieces reach far beyond the simplistic, obtuse approach to featuring nature in art. Hrbacek’s work causes the viewer to pause. She pulls the soul out of something thought to be void of one and supplies it with a voice. No longer to be ogled just for the ability to provide shade or admired for their stature or splendor during the changing of the seasons, these trees revealed the delicate dichotomy between masculine and feminine properties.
Virility, frailty, strength, sensuality are all themes that resonate throughout Hrbacek’s work. Through a series of bold, contrasting color selections, Hrbacek’s trees express hope and loss, desire and aversion and all that is ephemeral and divine between the relationship that man has with the universe as well as with members of the opposite sex. Hrbacek’s work presents a pensive look at questions and situations that have reappearing in the telling of man’s history since the days of cavemen. Through these nameless and faceless subjects, we learn more about ourselves.
The Tuesday after Superstorm Sandy I ventured out my home to discover dozens of trees lying in the middle of roads and resting on the roofs of houses and cars. Nature’s fury uprooted them from the earth and took blocks of concrete with them. In that moment, I again realized that nature and art, in one way or another, are always trying to tell us something , and this revelation made my recent visit to Mary Hrbacek’s studio all the more poignant.
Photos: Courtesy of Mary Hrbacek and F.A.M.E NYC Editor
Slideshow: F.A.M.E NYC Editor