Michele Oka Doner
The Book of Enchantment
January 23, 2023 — March 2, 2024
Marlborough is delighted to present a solo exhibition of the renowned interdisciplinary artist, Michele Oka Doner. The exhibition will open on Tuesday, January 23rd, with a reception from 6pm until 8pm, and will remain on view through Saturday, March 2nd, in the ground-floor gallery of 545 West 25th Street.
Michele Oka Doner’s artistic production spans over six decades, encompassing sculpture, public art, drawings, prints, artist books, and functional objects, all of which incorporate a wide variety of media, including bronze, silver, gold, terrazzo, porcelain, and handmade paper, among other materials. Often referred to as “nature’s scribe,” Oka Doner derives her formal vocabulary from her lifelong study and appreciation of the animal and botanical forms that comprise our natural world, as well as a sustained poetic exploration of the human figure. Whether they resemble bark, tree roots, microscopic molecules, or something human or animal, Oka Doner’s multimedia projects are rendered in a variety of scales that mirror and transcend the world around her. Ranging from the small and intimate to the large and magnificent, Oka Doner’s highly-intuitive works steadfastly seek to both evoke natural forms and pay homage to the environment—in particular, that of Miami, Florida, where the artist was born—while poignantly reminding us of our increasingly precarious ecosystem.
The exhibition opens with a procession of textured, larger-than-life monoprints rendered on handmade paper. Ever inspired by the natural word, Oka Doner developed these works by collecting bark, sticks, and roots and arranging them into figure-like forms, the resulting compositions neither drawn nor etched, but transposed from the source materials themselves. As Allison Cross notes, “from these [forest] remains have emerged her gods and goddesses—bark becomes skin, expressively alive.” Soft and ethereal, Oka Doner herself likens these figures to gods and goddesses. Central to the exhibition is an installation, consisting of a granary, which viewers are encouraged to enter, filled with more than fifty of the artist’s “Soul Catchers”—small, head-like objects rendered in ceramic and bronze. The installation on view is, in part, an extension of a monumental example realized in 2010 for the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which contained more than four-hundred Soul Catchers. Of the Soul Catchers, Oka Doner says:
“The world itself has a soul, found in the human capacity of imagination. It manifests itself in dreams and fantasy, poetry and art. Soul Catchers have been created from raw materials since primitive times to catch the souls of the sick and hasten their return to health. Soul Catchers keep the souls of the departed in the community or imprison the souls of wrongdoers until they repent. A Soul Catcher placed in the house has been thought by many cultures to prevent souls from leaving prematurely. Once this was the provenance of the Shaman.”
Statement from the artist: Artist Michele Oka Doner has been writing a book of enchantment over a lifetime. Chant is the operating principle as this installation is both songfest and visual poetry. Works of art have been drawn from an opus of fifty years to address the spirit of this moment, a dark one, deep winter, a time traditionally used to renew by both trees and humans alike.
Michele Oka Doner received her B.S.D. and M.F.A. in Fine Art University of Michigan and is the recipient of many accolades, including the Award of Excellence from the United Nations Society of Writers and Artists. The artist’s work is featured in numerous prominent art museums and private collections across several continents, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; The Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas; The St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri; The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia; The Cooper- Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, New York; The Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey; The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan; The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, Florida; The Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; and the Musée Décoratifs, Louvre, Paris, France.
Oka Doner is also renowned for creating over thirty-five public art installations throughout the United States and Europe, including A Walk on the Beach at the Miami International Airport, Radiant Site at Herald Square, New York, New York; Flight at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Arlington, Virginia; Forces of Nature, Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Soul Catchers, Nymphenburg, Munich, Germany; as well as installations at Federal courthouses in Greenville, Tennessee, Gulfport, Mississippi and Laredo, Texas; the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; public libraries in Sacramento, California, Evanston, Illinois and Toms River, New Jersey, and The Museum of Natural History in New York, New York. Most recently, Oka Doner mounted a solo presentation, entitled The True Story of Eve, at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, on view now through June 2, 2024.
For interviews, background and images, please contact:
Blue Medium, Inc.