To create works for While a Leaf Breathes (Mientras una Hoja Respira), artist Lucia Monge turned to plants, mushrooms, bacteria, and other living organisms as collaborators. 

“The materials in my works are prepared, fermented, cooked, and cultivated,” Monge says. “It is hard and also beautiful to adapt to another species’ temporality. It is important for me to not only talk about interspecies relationships but to try to meet another species halfway and to have my practice be guided through their cycles, time, and urgencies.”

The exhibition explores stomata — the pores through which plants breathe. Exchanging air with the environment is key to the photosynthetic process of plants. However, every time these pores open to breathe, the plant risks losing water. There is vulnerability in opening up, and loss and nourishment must be balanced in order to stay alive.

While a Leaf Breathes (Mientras una Hoja Respira) includes three installations that represent life cycle stages. Dormant and dried “seeds” made with reed, cane, and paper dyed with various plants, roots, and fungi are at opposite sides of the gallery. Inside two curved walls surrounding a central installation, like parentheses, are clusters of sculptural forms in conversation with each other — colorful fabric pieces and flat oval shapes made of luminescent bioplastic. 

Monge plans to compost the works after showing them at ArtYard and other venues.

A second exhibition on view at the arts center that aims to give form to our interconnectedness with nature is Kendall Buster: What Blooms, a solo exhibition comprised of two new sculptural installations and an ongoing drawing project reflecting the artist’s interest in the merging of organic forms with speculative built spaces.

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While a Leaf Breathes continues through January 28 at ArtYard, located at 13 Front Street in Frenchtown, New Jersey, 08825. Public hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm and Thursdays until 7pm.

ArtYard is an incubator for creative expression and a catalyst for collaborations that reveal the transformational power of art. Its campus includes an arts center featuring exhibition space and a state-of-the-art theater as well as two buildings housing its residency program.