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Nilson Gallery
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ATMOSPHERIC LAYERS runs from September 10 - November 3, 2023. An opening reception
will be held on September 10, 2023 from 4:00 - 6:00 PM and is free to attend.

"Negative forces which have been altering nature’s cycles, have tremendous implications on our environment, our emotional and physical health, and our humanity. Nature opens our senses and preserves our soul. Keeping her thriving is essential to our own humanity and existence. My work seeks to find balance. My work seeks to stop time in the viewer’s day.” – Patti Samper

In the overlapping, slow-dancing transparencies of Patti Samper’s latest series of paintings, natural phenomena and the human symbols derived from them coalesce. These syntheses become reminders of our physical and ontological boundedness to our environment—amidst much of the population’s alienation from it. A beguiling gentleness permeates this work. Gossamer yet vibrant, Samper’s abstract forms evoke the vitality and vulnerability of nature’s cycles, patterns, and structures. As environmental collapse looms, works in Atmospheric Layers consider humanity in relation to nature, without anthropocentrism: the ordered meaning of spiritual symbologies organically merging with, rather than subjugating, their surroundings. 


The series is born of the Colombian, Montclair, NJ-based artist’s most recent return to Palomino, La Guajira, the region of her father’s farm. She stayed for several weeks, deepening her ongoing relationship with members of the Arhuaco Indigenous community, whom she had grown up amongst. She spoke with the Mamos (spiritual leaders) about the imprint of climate change and the damage of enduring extractive colonialism in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: their home, the heart of their spiritual world, and Earth’s highest coastal mountain range. Its glaciers are rapidly melting, its weather patterns have become mercurial, and its subsurfaces are the apple of local mining companies’ eye. Samper’s serene new paintings interpolate Arhuaco spiritual and cosmological natural symbols of caracols (urumu), snakes (haku), and tree leaves (kanzachu) into abstract ecosystems. The paintings’ fragile tranquility simultaneously calls to mind an unseen, underlying chaos—what our world faces if we refuse avenues to harmony with nature. In the recurring shape of the caracol, one may feel the comfort of nature’s cycles, or the disquiet of a world spiraling out of control. 


Samper’s previous series, Transitions, Picture Element, and Degrees—all comprising the larger series Technology—portrayed a world reconceived by pixels and iPhone screens, mitigated by a profusion of anti-anxiety spinners. Atmospheric Layers actively omits technology’s omnipotent presence as it turns to natural forms—but its process of creation nods to the possibility of balance. For these works, Samper first photographed natural scenes across multiple seasons and locations, then used graphic design techniques to visualize how she wanted colors—vibrant harvest yellows and oranges, soily browns, tidal and airy aquamarines—and shapes to meld in affective natural scenes. She then neglected the screen, moving on to setting oils to linen canvas in a durational and deliberate process, with transparencies taking a minimum of three weeks at a time to dry before the next could be layered atop the others.

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