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Community: 'Leaves of the Tree' exhibit to celebrate trees through art

Community: 'Leaves of the Tree' exhibit to celebrate trees through art

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Artist Jennifer Hand installs her hanging leaves around a tree trunk structure created by her father, artist Charlie Brouwer. The tree is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening Sept. 23 at RU’s Art Museum in the Covington Center.

The Radford University Art Museum will open its first public exhibitions of the fall season beginning Wednesday, Sept. 23. “Leaves of the Tree” and “More Leaves of the Tree” will afford audiences the opportunity to delight in the wonders of leaves and their role in our environment. The exhibitions’ overlapping themes will emphasize environmentally conscious art, specifically works featuring foliage. Shown in two separate galleries across campus, both exhibitions will run from Sept. 23 through Nov. 7.

In order to practice safe social distancing and accommodate crowd size, the exhibitions’ joint openings will be held for small audiences at 4 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. across each of three consecutive evenings: Sept. 23, 24 and 25. Attendees will spend time at one of the two galleries, then be invited to enjoy the “Tree Trail” between the two exhibits before entering the opposite gallery for the second half of their reserved time. Opening festivities will feature musical and theatrical performances.

Masks will be required for all attendees. Due to limited space resulting from social distancing guidelines, admission will be granted on a first-registered, first-served basis. Advance registration is recommended, and attendees will also be required to complete the Radford University Symptom Tracker on their date of attendance. Pre-registration is available through the art museum’s home page at

“Leaves of the Tree” will display at the Art Museum in the Covington Center, and will feature original works from local artists Charlie Brouwer and Jennifer L. Hand. The exhibition’s centerpiece will feature a 23-foot-high tree trunk fabricated from slab wood surrounded by hundreds of life-sized suspended leaves sewn from donated fabrics. Brouwer will build the trunk, while Hand will create and install suspended fabric leaves around it. Various other works by Brouwer and Hand will be on display, including wood sculptures, drawings, paintings, video and mixed-media reflecting the theme of leaves as objects of beauty and metaphors for our interconnectedness.

Brouwer is known regionally and internationally for his monumental-sized sculptures featuring ladder forms evoking transcendent aspirations, which are likewise conveyed in his representations of organically soaring trees. His lengthy artistic career includes more than 290 exhibitions, and for 15 of his 22 years as a member of Radford University’s art faculty, Brouwer taught outdoor classes in environmental sculpture at the Selu Conservancy. Hand, who is Brouwer’s daughter, teaches art at the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech, and has become renowned for her sensitively rendered landscape paintings and mixed media creations. “Leaves of the Tree” offers a delightful overview of recent work by this remarkably accomplished father and daughter duo.

“More Leaves of the Tree” is a juried exhibition that will be on display at the Radford University Art Museum on Tyler. It will feature a variety of artists whose works also center on themes of nature and the environment. The exhibit’s call for entries was open to any artist with works made from leaves, depicting leaves, referencing leaves or exploring leaves through metaphor.

Nationally renowned environmental sculptor Patrick Dougherty serves as juror for the exhibit. Dougherty is a North Carolina-based artist who has received numerous prestigious awards and accolades for his art. A book of his works titled “Stickwork” was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2010. Dougherty’s selection was made from more than 300 entries submitted by 106 artists, including painters, sculptors, photographers, ceramicists, jewelers, mixed-media artists, film animators and a stained-glass maker. Awards and citations will be announced during the September opening dates. Select works will be available for purchase.

“We are thrilled to have Mr. Dougherty as our juror for this exhibit because of the exciting way both he and his art engage with nature and community,” said Dr. Steve Arbury, director of the Radford University Art Museum.

The two exhibits will appear on opposite ends of Radford’s campus, and visitors will be encouraged to walk from one gallery to the other via a “Tree Trail,” developed by Radford University’s longtime dendrology instructor John Kell. The trail will feature various notable trees, including a national champion white basswood, and will meander through a “Leaf Labyrinth” designed by Radford University Professor of Art Dr. Eloise Philpot. Medical research has shown that a walk in the woods is physically and mentally rejuvenating, and visitors can experience the healing power of leaves for themselves as they traverse between the two exhibits.

Recent research has demonstrated that trees communicate between each other using chemical signals through their roots. We are all connected and rooted in the physical and metaphorical qualities of the leaves of trees. They refresh our air with oxygen, decorate our world with a variety of shapes, and transform our lives with the symbolism of seasonal cycles of birth, life, death and renewal. “Leaves of the Tree” and “More Leaves of the Tree” will celebrate these themes through an exceptional display of art and talent.

Submitted by Jason Hutchens

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