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2023 Ecotone

Between Nature and Art

2023 Ecotone

June 17 - August 13, 2023

Ironwood Gallery


An ecotone is a transition zone where ecological systems meet and mingle as they transition from one ecosystem to another. These overlapping landscapes are places of tension and opportunity, creating environments where competing species encounter each other and blend, favoring some species at the expense of others. Species richness and abundances tend to peak in ecotonal areas, which can also be the source of ‘hotspots’ where new forms evolve.


Just as an ecotone is a space where diverse species interact and compete, an artist's work may be a place where different cultural, historical, or personal influences come together, interact, and combine to create something new and unique. This can result in a work of art that defies easy categorization or classification and can challenge viewers to think in new ways.


This exhibition reflects on the concept of ecotone as a method of examining the intersection of art and ecology. Each piece presented is a site of transformation, both a question and hypothesis, where the artist’s research areas are explored and questioned through drawing, painting, and photography.

Anthony Pessler (Phoenix)

Pessler is an artist working primarily in painting and drawing. His creative research occupies a space at the intersection of human/animal relationships and spiritual practice. Influences ranging from classic Disney animation to Orthodox iconography result in delicately painted images that evoke the mystery and fragility of wild places and things. Pessler’s love of nature and his will to understand the nature of love is the motivating force behind his creative practice. His paintings and drawings can be seen as short stories whose plots rearrange themselves according to the viewer's desires.

Ryan Parra (Mesa)

Parra is a photography and video-based artist and educator. He has spent the past ten years extensively researching medicinal flora growing throughout the Southwest and beyond as means for ethnobotanical documentation and artistic expression. Exemplifying the interplay between science and art, his VIVARIUM FORAS and VIVARIUM INTERIUS series exposes the tensions and the opportunities between the clinical objectivity of one field of study in collaboration with the subjectivity of creative expression and aesthetics.

Heidi Hogden (Phoenix)

Hogden explores the impact of human-induced environmental changes on the landscape and how these changes are connected to specific locations. Large-scale graphite drawings showcase the artist's personal experiences in challenging environments, while her paintings consider the extraction of animals from their natural habitats and their preservation through taxidermy as ‘Still Life’. By exploring the relationship between humans and their environment, Hogden's work encourages viewers to consider the impact of their actions and how they can preserve and protect the natural world.

Ellen McMahon (Tucson)

McMahon has devoted her career to working at the nexus of art and the environment. This exhibit features new works in the ongoing series Distance Passed - Abstract, expressionistic wet-on-wet ink washes are cropped in miniature to provide the illusion of atmospheric mini-landscapes, alluding to horizon lines of distant terrains as they mark the limits of what we can know. Suggesting vast, open expanses under the open sky, as well as the uncanny specifics of remote sites in the West, where she worked as a field biologist, McMahon’s work evokes longing for the stillness and silence in lone encounters with nature.

Take a Virtual Tour of this Exhibition!

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