CMCA nature
Donald Moffett, “Lot 110123 (nature cult, houses).”

The Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland will present the exhibition “Donald Moffett: Nature Cult, Seeded” from May 25 to Sept. 8. The show, curated by former CMCA director and chief curator Suzette McAvoy, is the artist’s first exhibition in Maine, where he is a seasonal resident of North Haven Island.

Donald Moffett, born in 1955 in San Antonio, Texas, emerged as both an artist and activist in the late 1980s, participating in ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), as a founding member of the collective Gran Fury and as a founding partner of BUREAU, a trans-disciplinary studio. Taking abstraction and the monochrome as evolving unfinished languages, Moffett challenges the traditional flat frame of painting through nontraditional techniques and employs new forms that serve as carriers of both personal and political meaning.

Currently, Moffett is pursuing “Nature Cult,” a deep study and expanding practice of how art and the environmental crisis might collide. “The intensity of a cult is called for as we turn our attention to nature and its preservation,” Moffett says.

“Nature Cult, Seeded” is the latest iteration in the ongoing series. The exhibition is centered on the large-scale sculptural installation “Lot 030323/24 (the golden bough),” an assemblage of dead tree limbs painted gold and bolted together to form an undead yet ethereal totem to life.

In a recent interview with fellow North Haven resident and architect Toshiko Mori in Domus magazine, Moffett speaks of his interest in “the tree, the fundamental unit of a forest and the web of ecology that builds out from the tree. When you mess with the tree, a system can fall apart.”

Other works in the exhibition are new wall-mounted and freestanding sculptures

incorporating the form of weathered birdhouses punctured and perforated and painted in intense hues. Also included is a selection of the artist’s emblematic shaped and carved panel paintings finished in luminous epoxy resin or given a lush pelt of extruded paint, referencing various organic and bodily forms.

Throughout the exhibition, the haunting sound of the now-extinct male Kaua‘i ‘ō‘ō bird can be heard calling for a mate that will never come. At once ominous and seductive, “Nature Cult, Seeded” is a clarion call to the precariousness of our planet in crisis.

“I don’t think there are issues more important than nature and its health,” Moffett says.

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