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animate objects for a living environment

Since the early 1990s, Peter Bodnar III has occupied himself with what have been some of the most intractable problems in art: a coherent, scientifically informed consideration of the forces governing the physical processes of the natural world and, by extension, the assimilation into a static artwork of a sense of the time in which these processes occur, and from which they are finally inextricable. The phenomena incorporated into Bodnar’s work are fundamental to natural process: the appearance and growth of natural forms, particularly cells, seeds, bulbs, and insect shapes; pattern, markings, camouflage, and color; symmetry, flow, the random and accidental. All, of course, have an applicability to the life of art, where their physical characteristics have been incorporated in one way or another as art itself developed over time.

The long, complex relationship between art and nature is a deep root, but over the past century, art’s elemental sources in the natural world have been largely subsumed in its singularity as a human practice. One might even suggest, at least in a general way, that the dynamics of art are no longer so much concerned with a human relationship with the world as they are with humanity’s relationship with itself. This is a profound shift, yet many of art’s fundamental means endure. Bodnar has retrieved their origins in natural phenomena in order to contemplate their applicability in contemporary art and to measure their capacity to speak for and about nature in modern culture.


To go a step further, they are eccentric shapes, and their capacity (as in much of Bodnar’s work) to suggest many other forms (spears, architectural metalwork, balusters, insect bodies, and so on) exalts in the influence that nature wields over the course of human invention. The things we build do indeed take their essential shapes from natural forms. We live among these forms, and they have been embedding themselves in our consciousness for millennia. They are among the sources of gesture in art, of design, of the shapes of written language. Our relationship with nature is deeply intimate, something we cannot escape even as we throw ourselves tirelessly into our efforts to control and exploit the natural world.

Bruce Nixon

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