In 200 Words: Making a New Forest at {Poem88}

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Lina Tharsing, Denali, 2013, oil on panel, 48 inches x 72 inches. Photo courtesy {Poem88}
Lina Tharsing, Denali, 2013, oil on panel, 48 inches x 72 inches. Photo courtesy {Poem88}

<i>Making a New Forest</i>, the exhibition on view at {Poem88} until October 19, comprises a new body of paintings by Kentucky-based artist Lina Tharsing. The works on display draw from archival photos of habitat dioramas taken at the American Museum of Natural History.

High Museum: Picturing the South on view through February 6

In an interview with former BURNAWAY editor Rachel Reese,Tharsing pinpoints the “ inherent eerie stillness” of such constructions as their defining characteristic. This observation lends much context to the unnervingly dry tone of the paintings. Eschewing the lush color that populated earlier works, the artist adopts an anemic grayscale palette that proves strangely evocative. In these emotionally arid spaces people appear as technicians, engineers, and stewards of a strange reality abundant with diverse life forms yet seemingly lacking in life itself. The industrious if mute figures produce, preserve, and monitor approximations of nature that are as disjointed as the dioramas from which the paintings are derived.

The scenes depicted, which on the whole manage to be fairly immersive, are nevertheless punctured by subtle moments: A hard-edged shadow reveals the landscape to be a flat backdrop; a figure’s arm seems to traverse an entire valley, touching a mountain miles away. Although one might lament a lack of painterly variety in a series that aims to explore moments in which “the lines of fiction and reality intersect,” it is precisely the visual coherence of these paintings that allows for such subtle slippages and ultimately rewards with a quietly uncanny viewing experience.

Tom Berlangero


ETSU MFA Program applications open






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