Natural world inspires impressive art in ‘At the Surface’

‘Nest III’ by Matthew Boonstra

By Sarah Weinman

The show “At the Surface” on view at The Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, has so many fascinating pieces that I was unable to limit myself to three in this post. 

Juror Thad Duhigg summarizes the show’s sensibility: “[A]ll of the artists utilize surface to provoke or seduce the viewer to engage with the work on a visceral level.”

In all four of the works I chose to write about, I found references to the natural world, some more straightforward than others.

Judith Greavu’s bronze work “Kelp with Sea Creatures” (46” x 12” x 4”) made me think of a slice of ocean hanging on the wall. It depicts a strand of kelp with frilled edges on which sea creatures like crabs and clams perch. The color of the whole piece is blue-green, like the ocean. The tiny details of the plant and animals are wonderful. 

Matthew Boonstra also selected a subject from nature in his piece “Nest III”, constructed of plywood and painted white (18” x 22” x 10”). The work looks like an interior cutaway of a giant hive. It’s made up of dozens of hexagonal pieces joined together to form a concave undulating honeycomb structure. Boonstra explains, “My recent series, ‘Nest’, was developed to explore my feelings of living in a rural landscape.”

I was reminded of the formation of our planet when I looked at Terry Hinkle’s “The Beginning”, made with latex, acrylic, and copper oxidized paint. Hinkle applied a thick layer of white paint in the center of the 36” x 36” canvas which forms an imperfect circle. Fine cracks in the paint at the edges of the circle become deeper and wider towards the center, where we glimpse a layer beneath the whiteness: copper oxidized paint, greenish-gold in color. “The Beginning” hints at complex events taking place under what appears to be a calm, plain surface. Hinkle “uses iron, copper, and bronze paints that oxidize to weather and rust” and “seldom seals the paint when he finishes the piece so it can continue to live and make beautiful subtle changes over time.”

And from the formation of the Earth to distant galaxies: Jennifer Mishra photographed rusted/oxidized blue metal to make her 11” x 17” piece “Art Blue Metal 191”. Mishra used an encaustic painting process in which the combination of metal, wax, rust, and heat produced this result. She says, “This is a macro photo of a fragment of a 2’ x 3’ sheet of metal used to extinguish the burning wax. The process creates random shapes and textures in a multitude of colors.” The lines and colors (blue, red, yellow, brown, black, and white) give the image a lot of depth. We could almost be looking at a galaxy or into deep space. 

“At the Surface” is on view at The Foundry Art Centre through May 4. The gallery is located at 520 N. Main Center in downtown St. Charles. Gallery hours are Tuesday – Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; and Sunday noon – 4 p.m.

For more information, call 636-255-0270 or visit

Sarah Weinman is from St. Louis and earned a master’s degree in art history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She loves to plan trips and travel. In her spare time she enjoys photography and writing, and she belongs to a weekly writers’ group. Her blog looks at visual arts in St. Louis, featuring whenever possible Jewish artists or themes.