Mind in Nature, Nature in Mind

by Mike Adams, Cohort ’13


Leibniz by Mike Adams

Leibniz by Mike Adams

I used to dread writing artist’s statements. Now I find them to be an opportunity to chart my development as a thinker, and to explain my work to a new audience, as in the following, written for a show that opens in October at Matzke Fine Art on Camano Island in Washington State:

We tend to talk today about our separation from nature. Indeed, it seems to be the case that we see nature as literally outside ourselves: the out-of-doors. We damage the environment forgetting that we are in nature, destroying the very earth of which we are an integral part—like setting fire to the house in which we live. Even early in the 19th Century, before the Industrial Revolution affected his native Germany, Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854) wrote about nature as having two aspects: unconscious forces, what we would call the natural world, and consciousness–including our own sentience–still part of the natural world, but enabling us to be (or to think we are) autonomous. Perhaps this seeming autonomy, our ability to think and act, makes us feel that we are beyond “unconscious” nature, when we are merely an extension of it.

My sculpture is an exploration of the balance between what I would have previously called the “natural world” and the “man-made world,” but to avoid this inherent opposition, I’d like to follow Schelling’s lead and project ourselves within a unity of nature. Certainly this does not solve the problem of the divide in which we often find ourselves as humans: seemingly opposed to everything else in the world (and subsequently alienated). Yet the connection we have with art is an example of how we actively engage in a positive way with things outside of ourselves.

My work is ultimately optimistic in its offer of an unusual harmony. I juxtapose incongruous elements, not necessarily to cause a clash, but to create something mythic, something that exists outside of time and the normal rules. A work of art ought to be a bit strange, that place in the world where something new happens.