Artistic Ecosystem: Hava Gurevich exhibits 20 years of nature-inspired art at Matthaei Botanical Gardens
Hava Gurevich beautifully imagines and creates her own artistic ecosystem.
The Ann Arbor artist blends nature’s vibrant colors with unique lifeforms and hypnotic botanical, aquatic, and microscopic motifs to capture a universal interconnectedness.
Those stunning linkages thrive and evolve across Gurevich’s latest acrylic art exhibit, Inspired by Nature: 20 Years of Art by Hava Gurevich, at the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor.
“My work is very aquatic and botanical, but it’s been more botanical in the last few years because I’m not close to any body of water that has life in it,” said Gurevich, whose exhibit runs through Sept. 11 and includes artwork created from 2002 to 2022.
“There’s an intentional connection to nature and an intentional connection to plants and native plants, like prairies and wildflowers, and it’s all of those concepts that are in my work. They’re all here … and the themes all kind of fit.”
Gurevich depicts those organic themes through 36 pieces of art, which feature elaborate patterns in nature that form and reappear across small and large-scale abstract environments as well as creatures.
Whether it’s a single-cell organism or an entire ecosystem, Gurevich celebrates the dynamic cycle of life in all its beauty and complexity. There’s an enchanting quality that flows throughout the recurring lines, shapes, and textures of her vivid artwork, which starts with photographs and sketches of nature.
“Photography has remained an aid, and over time, when it became really clear that my work is about my experience with nature, I started using this idea of meta patterns … like a circle, a square, or a squiggly line, and that everything’s built from that,” said Gurevich, a University of Michigan and Illinois State University alumna with degrees in photography and painting.
“And that ties into biomimicry. Because in nature, there are the same processes, and they get reused over and over with the same shapes, whether they’re berries, eggs, or bubbles. I started isolating and collecting those patterns, and I would collect them with my camera.”
After collecting those initial patterns through photographs and drawings, Gurevich carefully re-created and reimagined them one bright canvas at a time over two decades. In return, an artistic microcosm emerged and flourished with abundant plant life, radiant hues of color, and communal organisms.
“I watch a lot of nature documentaries, and I love evolutionary biology and living sciences. I love them at a level where in another life maybe I would have gone into marine biology or botany, but I’m kind of lucky to be an artist because I can go as deep as I want to,” said Gurevich, who also incorporates collages into some of her artwork.
“And if there’s something that goes over my head, then that’s fine because I’m not writing a thesis. I’m just absorbing it and regurgitating it through my art.”
Gurevich thoughtfully captures that essence in one of her most striking pieces, Cosmic Mushrooms. Created in 2019, the artwork features captivating blues and oranges intertwined with white mushrooms and greenish-blue vegetation nodes.
“Another inspiration was [the documentary] Fantastic Fungi when that came out because I’ve always loved mushrooms. I remember driving at one point and listening to Radiolab and hearing for the first time about the Wood Wide Web,” Gurevich said.
“This painting had been on and off just sitting in my closet, and I’d take it out occasionally and work on it. When I learned about the mycelium network, I put a few white squiggly lines on [the painting], and it suddenly all came together for me. I understood I had been trying to show communication all along.”
Another memorable piece includes 2004’s Nudibranch, which depicts an Andy Warhol-esque pop art feel with multi-colored sea slugs. Gurevich originally created the artwork for her nephew when he was young and borrowed it from him for the exhibit.
“I was looking for things that don’t have bones because I don’t have any straight lines or angles in my work. I wanted something that was biomorphic and crazy-looking, and I came across these and was like, ‘Where have you been all my life?’” she said.
“My nephew likes mollusks, octopi, and lobsters, and more specifically, marine life. I like to think that I had a lot to do with that because I’ve been introducing him to it for a long time. He’s had this piece for many years now.”
Gurevich also includes marine-colored hues on Evergreen Estuary, a 2013 painting that was initially printed on canvas. The piece features pine needles interspersed with white flowers and takes inspiration from her old vegetable garden in Lindenhurst, New York.
“The photos in the background are from two very special places to me, so they have some significance. But the drawing is just an ink drawing that I was doing. When I moved to Lindenhurst, I didn’t have very much inspiration because it was a very industrial sort of place,” said Gurevich, who relocated to Michigan in 2015.
“I started a little vegetable garden and would just sit there and draw it, and I really got into doing these ink drawings … and filling in the negative space and giving it stippling. I decided to do something complex that had a lot of stuff going on, like a prairie or something that had a polyculture.”
Along with Evergreen Estuary, Gurevich started compiling the other pieces for her exhibit earlier this year. At the time, she learned her artwork would be featured in a solo show from July to September.
“I’ve had work in a couple of group shows here, but I’ve also come here and seen that one artist has the whole place. I was like, ‘I need this,’ and at some point, I asked, and they directed me to the website where you can sign up for updates,” Gurevich said.
“Back in 2019, I applied to have a solo show here, and then the pandemic happened. Then, I got contacted by Alexis Ford, who runs the program, just a few months ago. She said, ‘We’re just now restarting this … we have a spot for this summer. Are you interested?’”
While her Matthaei exhibit has just under a month left, Gurevich is already planning for the next one in Paducah, Kentucky. Twenty-two pieces of artwork will be featured at West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s Clemens Fine Arts Center starting in mid-September.
“It’s just celebrating the diversity of life, the complexity in life, and the cycle of life because some things have to die so other things can grow. I can trace my progression of appreciating nature, and that’s what my work is about,” she said.
“If it resonates with someone else, then that’s amazing. It’s like a communication that you don’t have any other way.”
Lori Stratton is an Ann Arbor-based writer and editor of strattonsetlist.com.
“Inspired by Nature: 20 Years of Art by Hava Gurevich” runs through Sept. 11 at the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Located at 1800 N. Dixboro Road, the botanical gardens are open Monday through Saturday 10 am to 8 pm and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm.