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Natura Consonat | in harmony with nature

Mary Farmilant | WI, United States

St. Chrysostom's Church, Installation View

NaturaConsonat is a project that began after the death of my mother-in-law, who lived on the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Reservation in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. I returned there to process my thoughts and feelings about her life, our relationship and her sudden death.

Each time I travel to Lac du Flambeau, there is a palpable dismantling of the cares and the worries brought with me. These concerns have no place in the woods. The whispers of the trees have its own dialect; the plants native to the area create their own mossy scent.

Photographing in the forest produced in me a sense of wonder and completeness. I came to learn this sensation has a name: forest bathing, the act of rejuvenating the spirit and body by being in the woods. This project shares that feeling of well-being.

These images record natural sceneries of the primal forests, marshes, meadows, the sky, waters and places marked by the people who dwell there. 

This on-going body of work consists of three forms; an immersive installation with sound recordings, video and color photographs.

Years ago, when I first visited the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, the home of my husband’s mother and her people, the Ojibwe, I was struck by the ineffable quiet and serenity of their lands that produced in me a sense of wonder and completeness. I have returned countless times, photographing on the Reservation and in other forests of the Northwoods, trying to capture and express the awe that I experience. I came to learn this experience has a name: forestbathing, the act of rejuvenating the spirit and body by being in the woods.

Photographing throughout the seasons, I use classic color film and a conventional camera to picture the woods, marshes and meadows, the sky, waters, and places marked by the people who dwell there. Later, in the studio, working from my color negatives, I create small diptychs and triptychs, which I print on paper. Other images are printed in color on large scale panels of semi-opaque silk fabric. These delicate panels, suspended from the ceiling of the exhibition space by transparent nylon line, can be viewed from all sides. Some panels are hung in groups, others singly. Because these fabric pieces are lightweight and semi-transparent, they sway in the currents of air generated by the movements of viewers who walk through the exhibition space.

My pieces invite viewers to feel the deep connection to these ancient forests and contemplate the wonder of the Northwoods, and to feel the same sense of balance and peace that occur in the woods themselves. Organic material, such as mossy wood, grasses and soil and audio recording of the natural sounds round out the ‘virtual forestbathing’ experience by stimulating all the senses.

Citizens of cities rarely have the opportunity to bathe in thick forest. This exhibit brings a virtual experience to the city. The official motto for my hometown, Chicago, is "Urbs in Horto" -- City in a Garden. These panels are designed to create "Horto in Urbs" -- a portable garden that can travel to neighborhood schools, libraries, vacant storefronts, and other sites to share the virtual forest with those not able to travel.

Mother Earth, the Ojibwe teach, is the source of life. Forested land is becoming sparse, partly due to urban sprawl devouring the woodlands and partly due to irreparable damage done by mining, logging, and failure to replenish this renewable resource. The Ojibwe believe their very existence is intertwined with all living things, and that life itself depends on treating all things with respect. Land conservation and stewardship are integral components of the Ojibwe lifestyle.

One of the goals of this project is to teach children about sustainable living and protecting natural resources to keep all life in balance. Spending time in the forest is rejuvenating to people; to complete the circle of life we must also rejuvenate the forest.

Natura Consonat | in harmony with nature Exhibition

A photographic and sound installation. This series consists of a suite of large-scale composited photographs printed on silk panels, photographs printed on paper, video and sound recordings of the forest.

12 large-scale tree panels printed on silk charmeuse fabric, Two sizes: 10 ft x 42 inches and 10 ft x 50 inches.

Lucite rods through top hem. Hung from ceiling with transparent nylon line. Exhibition ready.

Sachets of sweet grass, sage and cedar complete the exhibit.

Research and education
Currently, continuing research on:
- How trees function, communicate, and nurture other trees.
- The health benefits of “forest bathing.”
- Tree conservation and tree preservation.
- Conservation and paper.
- How protecting forests fights global climate change.
- The economic benefits of land conservation.
-What can students do at home to help with forest
- Middle school science project that demonstrates the health benefits of virtual experiences of nature.


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