Michele Oka Doner: Close Your Physical Eye
MANITOGA 2019 Artist Residency Program
May 10 - November 11
Naturalist, sage, magician pioneer. . . words used to describe both modernist designer Russel Wright (1904-1976) and acclaimed artist Michele Oka Doner, Manitoga / The Russel Wright Design Center's 2019 Resident Artist. It is with great excitement that we announce Close Your Physical Eye, her site-specific installation of sculpture and large-scale relief monoprints. 

In artist Michele Oka Doner, Wright finds a kindred spirit. They share a vast artistic reach across medium and scale, from object to environment, from fine botanical drawings to Oka Doner's mile and quarter long concourse  A Walk on the Beach  at Miami's International Airport and Wright's experimental home and 75-acre woodland garden. The interconnectedness of humanity and nature is a shared theme as is their method to probe and celebrate, to invite us to observe closely and to engage. Oka Doner's work and Wright's Manitoga are rooted in the sacredness of nature - its force, transcendence, eternal spirit, and timelessness. 

The installation will be on view during seasonal public tours, beginning May 10, as well as for special programs and events. A Member Opening Celebration is planned for Saturday, June 8, 5-7pm.

The primal, elemental force of Fire has long held Oka Doner's artistic attention, and she continues her quest at Manitoga. An ancient trunk she foraged from Manitoga's woodlands will transform through fire into a darkened bronze  Burning Star  with sixteen points of candle light.  Burning Star  will occupy Dragon Rock's living room - "I have made the room like a cave ,"  explained Wright,  "the fireplace is literally the burning heart of the house." With cave and fire come art and ritual. Says Oka Doner, "The ritual of daily life is important. I make ceremony of lighting fire in the hearth, serving a meal." 
On an autumnal woodland walk, Oka Doner gathered from Manitoga's forest floor the bark of once mighty hemlock trees - felled by years of blight. From these remains have emerged her gods and goddesses - bark becomes skin, expressively alive in six larger-than-life textured monoprints on handmade paper, also derived from bark. Oka Doner's powerful, soulful figures alternate between poised balance and graceful motion. Poetically named Alive,  Sovereign,  Scion Duress Arrival , and  Begotten , these forest ancestors will encircle the viewer in the main House west gallery. Are they sentinels protecting Manitoga, our place of great spirit, or seers portending an uncertain future? Given Oka Doner's great belief in humanity and its steady march toward enlightenment, their message seems one of hope.

Register today for public and special tours at  VisitManitoga.org

Photo: Gerald Forster