The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Features SoVA Alumna and Assistant Professor Ann Tarantino

Ann Tarantino

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens will feature Full Bloom, an exhibition of work by SoVA alumna Ann Tarantino (MFA 01), assistant professor of art and landscape architecture at Penn State. In this exhibition, opening March 21,  Tarantino recasts the skylights in the Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens as vibrant canvasses upon which the rich history of the Children’s Garden is reimagined. Colorful laser-cut drawings will be installed directly on the panels of each skylight, transforming each one into a focal point and historical document. In addition to the skylight piece, Tarantino will create three illuminated, wall-hung works on paper that engage similar subject matter and techniques. The exhibition will engage both indoor space in the Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery and outdoor space in the Terrace Café.  Tarantino's wall-hung works will be on display through May 1 and the skylight pieces will be up through September 22 in the Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery.

The imagery and subject matter of the works in the exhibition takes its point of departure from the planting history of the Children’s Garden. After researching the plant lists from both the original 1914 garden and its 2014 counterpart, Tarantino selected a number of plants that appeared on both lists. These included carrots, beets, radishes, and sunflowers. She then made hand drawings of each plant—its fully realized form as well as its roots and cellular structure—and digitally transformed those drawings into tracings. The resulting tracings were then cut into colored paper using a laser-cutter, such that light is allowed to peer through the delicate incisions made by the laser. Natural light will filter through the incisions in the vinyl, casting intricate shadows throughout both spaces and creating a spatial and sensory experience for viewers. The resulting works, with their layers of abstraction and interpretation, speak to history, memory, and the passage of time, as well as to growth and regeneration. 

Tarantino makes drawings on paper and on the wall that reference lonely figures in unknown landscapes, underwater creatures, the roots of plants, neural networks, and maps of cities real and invented. Her methods include pouring and dropping ink onto a surface or blowing it through a straw to create intricate patterns, using an air compressor to propel paint across a surface, incising paper with delicate imagery using a lasercutter, and drawing repeated concentric circles reminiscent of ripples on water, growth rings on trees, or early cartographic drawings of an imagined cosmos.

She references different kinds of systems in her work, from the delicate patterning of nervous tissue revealed through Golgi’s method of staining brain cells, to the intricate web of parasitic and symbiotic relationships required to maintain healthy ecosystems and the labyrinthine streets of ancient cities.

Having grown up as a serious competitive swimmer, training and racing from a young age through early adulthood, Tarantino returns continually to the experience of weightlessness while moving through the water. "I am interested in the experiences of the body as it moves through space, meeting and evaluating stimuli both internal and external. Inspired by source material ranging from botanical illustration, contemporary information visualization strategies such as geo-tagging, musical scores, and knitting patterns, to cracks in the sidewalk, my work suggests infinite replication and growth, exploring what it looks and feels like to be alive."

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