The Natural World
Natural World is a collaboration between visual artists John Edmonds and David Hartt, poet and scholar Jason Allen-Paisant, and curator Nathaniel M. Stein, each of whom brings particular tools and perspectives to the task of including silenced positions in a shared conversation about the nature of the world. The Natural World project encompasses both an exhibition of Hartt’s and Edmonds’s commissioned artwork, mounted by the Cincinnati Art Museum in 2022, and a companion book.
This book presents Hartt’s and Edmonds’s photographs in dialogue with artworks and documents the artists selected from the collections and records of the museum. Essays by Allen-Paisant and Stein explore interrelated encounters with collections, institutions, and notions of naturalness, reflecting on the practice of history against the social and institutional impetus to tell history straight. Stein situates the Natural World collaboration in a consideration of his professional practice, as a trans man. Allen-Paisant, a Black Jamaican living and working in England, writes of his own body as a medium through which to understand his relationship to nature.
Edmonds’s body of work, Father’s Jewels, is a profound meditation on themes of family, identity, community, and belonging. Conceived in dialogue with African sculptures and the European artistic tradition, Edmonds’s pictures explore wounding, conflict, reverence, and love within and between generations of men. Father’s Jewels offers a new visual expression of human experience, adding breadth and depth to what has been said—and what it is possible to say—about the world.
Hartt’s body of work, The Garden, examines ways of seeing and picturing the world rooted in European artistic, political, and intellectual traditions. Newly synthesizing concerns that he has explored throughout his career, Hartt focuses on plant life as it negotiates the environment outside human-assigned physical parameters and social meanings. The Garden equips us to see nonhegemonic life and its potential to evolve known stories about the nature of the world.
Ultimately, the Natural World project is about justice, about what voices and ways of knowing are admitted into human representation of the natural order.