Artists reflect on healing and nature in new Whitman-inspired Red Hook exhibit

A new Walt Whitman-inspired exhibit by the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition explores the art of healing and how it pertains to nature.

A new Red Hook exhibit has artists reflecting on the healing qualities of both art and nature.

The show, titled “What Goes Around Comes Around: The Sky Continues Beautiful,” is an homage to a phrase in famed poet Walt Whitman’s “To Think of Time.”

Including work from 70 artists, the exhibition features multimedia art from members of the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, highlighting these artists’ interpretations of Whitman’s thoughts on life, death and resilience as depicted in nature and during the pandemic.

Alicia Degener, the co-president of BWAC and one of the show’s curators, said the group drew inspiration from Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and the significant role that nature played throughout this past year.

“If nothing else during this pandemic, we found ourselves taking solace in going outside and walking around in nature,” Degener said. “Everyone could respond to that.”

For this exhibit, artists were asked to submit narratives about their response to what happened across the country during the height of COVID-19.

Artist Kristin Harris has three pieces included in the exhibition: Fall Grasses, July Lotus Leaves and Zinnias.

July Lotus Leaves by artist Kristin Harris.BWAC

Harris said that when she heard the exhibit’s theme, she thought her pieces were a perfect fit.

“I do believe in the healing nature of art and nature,” Harris said. “For me that has played such an important role in my work for the past 40 years and I thought it was a wonderful idea.”

The narratives from each artist varies widely throughout the exhibit and allows these artists to give a glimpse of their interpretation of the healing power of nature and the healing nature of art.

“The show has a lot of special installations and features artists more broadly than we normally do. This is a really in-depth way to get to know our artists,” Degener said.

BWAC is Brooklyn’s largest artist-run organization with over 250 members and its purpose is to “assist emerging artists in advancing their artistic careers,” and “present the art-of-today in an easily accessible format.”

“Everyone brings something different to the plate and everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but we all support each other and at the end of the day, we are there for each other,” Degener said. “We’re more than just a gallery, we are a community.”

As a non-profit volunteer organization, Degener said that it was not easy to keep the BWAC gallery open during the pandemic, but a core group of artists pitched in for their recent exhibits and they are the reason the gallery is still open.

“It was really fulfilling for me to see the resilience of this group of artists,” Degener said. “I am super proud to be a part of it.”

As the city emerges from a pandemic and a year overcome with loss, “The Sky Continues Beautiful” serves as an introspection of the past year and the way in which the pandemic has affected artists and their work.

“New York City has stood together to weather this storm and artists do a good job at reflecting what is happening around them,” Harris said. “The diversity and energy that is represented in this exhibit are a testament to the best of human nature.”

“What Goes Around Comes Around: The Sky Continues Beautiful” is on display through June 20, and the gallery — located at 481 Van Brunt St. — is open every Saturday and Sunday, from 1-6 pm. For more information, visit www.bwac.org.