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Albright-Knox Art Gallery Announces New Public Art at Tifft Nature Preserve

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Buffalo, NY – Today, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery announced a new AK Public Art Initiative installation by artist Roberley Bell (American, born 1955) at the Tifft Nature Preserve in partnership with the Buffalo Museum of Science.

“The Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, governing body of the Buffalo Museum of Science and Tifft Nature Preserve, is thrilled to play host to this new public art project,” said President & CEO of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, Marisa Wigglesworth. She continued, “Tifft Nature Preserve serves as a natural refuge for residents of Buffalo and the Greater Buffalo Niagara region, and we are dedicated to teaching visitors about conservation and the environment. This installation aligns beautifully with our mission and will bring our work, and all that Tifft has to offer, to the attention of an even wider audience. We are delighted to have been selected by Albright-Knox as a location, and very grateful for the generous support from the County of Erie and City of Buffalo that makes the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Public Art Initiative possible.”

“The Public Art Initiative is delighted to be partnering with the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences for this installation at the Tifft Nature Preserve,” said Aaron Ott, Curator of Public Art at the Albright-Knox. “This project will increase public awareness of the work being done here, and will ultimately help with the overall stewardship of these grounds and the wildlife they are home to.” 

Roberley Bell’s practice is centered on the production of sculpture and site-specific public projects. Her work regularly explores aspects of our environment by abstracting natural forms, appropriating manufactured objects, and repurposing artifacts to create fantastical landscapes. Her production explores the space where artificial meets real with the intention of engaging our imaginations as we are forced to examine that relationship.

The Tifft Nature Preserve is the very definition of artificial space in nature. The 264- acre refuge was created in 1972 from land purchased by the City of Buffalo for a landfill site. The completed landfill incorporated many safety measures, allowing the land to have a new purpose as the nature preserve that opened in 1976. Nearly two million cubic feet of solid municipal waste was enclosed in clay and covered with soil excavated from other sections of the preserve. Ponds were enlarged and trees and wildflowers were planted.

Much of the preserve now exists as a virtual monoculture, as nearly all of the trees on the property are either cottonwood or willow. Neither of these shallow-rooting and short-lived trees is particularly appropriate for the long-term health or management of the landscape, which sees substantial winds from Lake Erie damage large swaths of its forest. In an effort to diversify and protect the landscape, more than 2,000 long-lived native species were planted between 2009 and 2015 to enhance tree regeneration and to provide a more diverse and sustainable ecosystem.

These newly planted trees are young and vulnerable, however, especially to deer and beaver, and require special protection in the form of enclosures surrounding the trunks to ensure their well being and longevity. For Bell’s installation at the Preserve, the Public Art Initiative has re-contextualized her work, which was previously exhibited at the Hermitage Museum and Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia.

Bell’s work, titled Locus Amoenus, consists of a central, bright yellow, chain-link house containing a growing tree and is inspired by the historic use of enclosed gardens (Hortus Conclusus) and the remains of constructed landscapes. Locus Amoenus is designed to play with and blur the notion of inside and outside spaces, and will be supplemented by additional smaller works.  

Led by the Buffalo Museum of Science, the planting efforts on this land will ensure and improve valuable habitats for wildlife, especially migrating songbirds. Although the major planting effort is complete, management will continue with additional maintenance and monitoring of tree health and survival. The Albright-Knox is pleased to provide this installation as an additional opportunity for environmental education and public enjoyment.

Other recent Public Art Initiative projects include Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn’s mural Noodle in the Northern Lights at the 710 Main Theatre, Kaarina Kaikkonen’s installation We Share A Dream, currently on view at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport; Jenny Kendler’s Milkweed Dispersal Balloons and ReWilding New York (Community Seed Stations), a two-fold work that took place over the summer of 2015; Shayne Dark’s 2015 exhibition Natural Conditions and residency at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens; Jaume Plensa’s Silent Poets, on view through October 2016 at Canalside; Casey Riordan's Shark Girl; Tape Art’sBuffalo Caverns, a massive, temporary mural made with low-adhesive drawing tape on the north wall of the Central Library branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library; a billboard- and sticker-based iteration of Matthew Hoffman’s You Are Beautiful project, made possible in part through a partnership with Lamar Advertising; and Charles Clough’s collaboratively produced Hamburg Arena Painting, which is installed in the newly constructed wing of the Hamburg Public Library. The Public Art Initiative has also distributed 30,000 art kits to students throughout Erie County.

The Public Art Initiative is supported by the County of Erie, the City of Buffalo, and Margie and Sandy Nobel.

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