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April 7, 2013

The Earth's art

North Tonawanda students returns to Carnegie Art Center for thesis exhibit

Tonawanda News — Art isn’t just paintings hanging on walls.

To Ruby Merritt, it’s a living, breathing, growing — even decomposing — thing.

Merritt, a North Tonawanda native and a student at the University at Buffalo, will present her master’s thesis exhibit starting Thursday at the Carnegie Art Center. “Ology” will run through April 25, with an opening reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday and a special artist talk and eco-demo from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 18.

The show takes a look at natural processes via a trio of stations in the Carnegie’s main gallery — a large, Plexiglas-covered worm farm, a stream table showcasing the work of water and erosion and another table where people “can get their hands dirty” working with earth and soil, Merritt said. 

“Everything is really related to my very strong passion for layers, the idea of under-earth,” she said while setting up the exhibit recently. “I really want an interaction to happen. Where you’re not just looking at stuff, but using all your senses, smell, touch, sight.”

In the Carnegie’s side gallery, visitors to the exhibit will be able to investigate an array of displays and objects. As Merritt worked to set up recently, it was full of tubs of earth, rock and sand, tree trunks and cross-sections of trees. A display planned for the wall contained sticks and fungi, moss and leaves. (Merritt called it her “exploded cabinet of curiosity.”) One table held a tray with all manner of rock samples and a mortar and pestle, while another held laboratory apparatus and glasswork.

Merritt, a member of the WNY Nature Sanctuary Society, said all of the natural materials will be returned to the areas from which they came. In a way, she sees herself as bringing the art of the Earth itself to a place where the public can see it.

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