Art literally made from nature shown in Camanche

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Clinton artist Gabi Torres, left, and Clinton County naturalist Jessica Steines brought some of the silk panels to “Living Local” at WHBF Friday, March 1, 2024.
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By Jonathan Turner, OurQuadCities

Over a year in the making, Clinton County Conservation will share the true colors of nature brought to you by Clinton abstract artist Gabriella Torres and naturalist Jessica Steines at a reception Saturday afternoon, March 2.

The free reception for the “Wildness Art Project” will be at the Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center, 3963 291st St., Camanche, from 2 to 4 p.m.

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Mingle with fellow art and conservation lovers, and you can see 70 gorgeous large silk panels (each 48-by-55 inches) hanging from the ceiling, colored using plants all collected in Clinton County – all while enjoying hors d’oeuvres by D-lectable D-Lites of Fulton, beverages and listening to local musician Joshua Mussmann.

Torres is deeply inspired by nature and the Iowa landscape. She uses acrylic paints and realized they’re very toxic, so Torres wanted to make her own eco-friendly pigments that won’t harm the environment.

“One of my goals – I want to learn to make my own pigments, to make natural earth pigments, dyes, things that are going to be non-toxic and more environmentally mindful,” she said in a March 2023 interview.

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“Because I love where I live so much and I love Iowa, I want to be able to go out and make paintings that celebrate and honor the environment, using those materials,” Torres said. “How cool would it be to make abstract landscapes, literally using the landscape? I’m using the earth to celebrate the earth.”

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Steines asked Torres in December 2022 to come up with an art project to help attract people to visit the center. Torres was inspired by nature in Clinton and suggested an artist residency program for this past November and December.

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One of the 70 abstract silk panels, created with natural pigments, to be displayed at the Eco Tourism Center in Camanche through March 31, 2024.

“I’m an abstract artist and I usually use acrylic paints to work with, but they’re really plastic based so they’re not great for the environment,” she said Friday, March 1. “I love nature and I’m really passionate about what Clinton County and our parks and landscape there.

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“What if I was able to create artwork using more environmental and mindful methods?” Torres recalled. “What if we gathered berries and whatever we could make colors out of and used those materials to create the pigments for these pieces? Jess being amazing, was like ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ Neither of us had any idea what we were doing.”

Steines and Torres interviewed on Living Local on Friday morning, March 1.

“Clinton County was amazing,” she said, noting they donated a cabin for her to live in during the project creation. “That was our home base, where we worked out of during November and December. It was really amazing to be out in basically the middle of nowhere, in the woods. There’s this beautiful creek that runs through it.”

The Saturday reception is free thanks to a REAP grant and other generous donors. RSVP is not required but appreciated by texting or calling Jessica at 563-212-0955. The Wildness panels will be on display in Camanche through March 31.

For more information on Torres, visit her website HERE.

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