The relationship between art and nature has gone hand in hand throughout history. From primitive cave drawings, to the paintings of John James Audubon, the realm of nature has always been an inspiration to artists.
But Nature Art can go beyond just depicting beautiful scenery, and such is the aim of the 'Bat Cloud' installed recently at Tifft Nature Preserve in Buffalo.
The aerial sculptures are not only graceful and beautiful, but will also provide a habitat for bats, and pique awareness as well.
"People aren't really aware how beneficial they are and how important they are," says Joyce Hwang, the artist of the Bat Cloud. "So I thought it would be an interesting thing and a great thing to make something that would instigate a sense of curiosity about bats, so they aren't seen as these vicious, rabid animals."
The Bat Cloud was the last installation in 'Fluid Culture', a year long series of events sponsored by the UB Humanities Institute. The series was focused on the waterways of the region, and the installation. Tifft seemed a natural fit.
"We decided to do 'Fluid Culture' which the topic was water and culture, but also interactions between the man made environment, culture, and the natural environment," says Justin Read, one of the Coordinators of Fluid Culture.
"It's something like a showcase," says Lauren Makeyenko, Experience Manager at Tifft. "It's something we haven't done before, we haven't partnered in this way with University at Buffalo or any one other entity to have an installation in the preserve. It's really kind of neat, and we're excited about it."
But why bats? The winged mammals have long been misunderstood...reviled by man, and the source of many myths and falsehoods. But Bats are critical to our environment, and at the moment, many species are facing possible extinction by a disease called 'White Nose Syndrome', a fungus that attacks bats in the winter months, while they are hibernating .
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently estimated that 5.5 million bats have been lost to the disease since its discovery in 2006.
"A million bats can eat 700 tons of insects a year," says Makeyenko. "So you think about that impact in a natural aspect to our crops, to our plants, to everything that insects may affect, and 700 tons of insects remaining because a million bats have died from this disease, is a lot."
"Bats are a real indicator to the strength, the health of an environment," says Read. "So anything we can do to make people aware of that so that people know that bats are not some pest that need to be eliminated, but really need to be fostered."
The Bat Cloud has not yet attracted any residents, but that may take awhile until they find their way there naturally. In the meantime, Western New Yorkers will have ample opportunity to experience this unique eco-sculpture and learn something new about a critical part of the world around us, just as the artist herself did.
"Researching bats, talking to biologists, several biologists, reading about them in general, has definitely given me a greater understanding of the situation,"says Hwang.
"Too often, Buffalonians have felt disconnected from their waterways, and there's a lot of different places, a lot of people working to get people back in touch with the lakes and the rivers," says Read. "This is hopefully engaging people in some small way, or large way towards that."
The installation will be up at Tifft indefinitely, and if you'd like to learn more about the many upcoming programs at Tifft, you can visit www.sciencebuff.org.