Artist Alexandre E. explores the U.S. through nature
The exhibit 'Elements' is on display at the Piano Craft Gallery
When painter Alexandre Emmanuel Henrique emigrated from Brazil in 2004, it was nature that introduced him to the United States. Through his travels all over the country, particularly in California and New England, the artist discovered landscapes, animals, insects and phenomena he had never encountered in South America. These discoveries inspired “Elements,” an exhibition at Piano Craft Gallery in Boston through June 24.
Divided into four sections — “Terra,” “AR,” “Fuego” and “Acqua” — the show depicts pieces of each element that struck him during his journeys. “You can see all different trees and different forms,” says Henrique, known as Alexandre E. “This is how I fell in love with America.”
It’s the details that captivated him. In “Terra” he depicts the rocks in between railroad tracks, illustrating the way the earth supports this means of transportation. Throughout the show there are many references to the human presence in nature, through footprints in snow, open windows and burning love letters. It forces the audience to consider the role they play in the natural world, either in preserving or destroying it. “I want to make people pay attention to what we are using,” says Henrique. “See what you’re breathing, that’s air. See what you’re walking on, that’s earth.”
The most innovative artworks are in the “AR” section, standing for “air.” The key for Henrique was illustrating movement, which inevitably comes with air; he wanted to evoke the feeling of flying. He accomplishes this by layering strips of canvas, each separated slightly from the other by a strip of plywood. Together the strips make one image, but they each tell their own story as well. Henrique encourages viewers to lift up the layers and play with them, another form of movement.
The objects in the “AR” paintings represent subjects that use air — insects, bees, flowers and the sails of a ship, another reference to human involvement.
By day Henrique works as a dental assistant in Chestnut Hill. But he’s been an artist all his life. In fact, he’s had six solo exhibitions and many group shows. His day job plays a minor role in “Elements.” Henrique’s boss took a series of photos of the evening sky while walking his dog. The result was a variety of colors and patterns. He gave Henrique the photos, and Henrique proceeded to make a multi-layered “AR” painting based on the sunset shots. You never know where inspiration will strike.
Henrique hopes the artworks will calm viewers as much as they remind them to be conscious of nature. He says, “So many troubles are coming up. I’m bringing the idea of nature up in our minds to see more beauty.”