133 North Allegheny Street Bellefonte , PA 16823
By Serge Bielanko
Tom Seay is no stranger to nature.
He's a guy who knows her majesty, recognizes her tranquil grace whenever he's in her presence.
Which is a lot.
But he's also the type of person who has known too many trails, breathed in too many forests and fields to always trust her blindly her as well. As a Centre County native and a lifelong artist, Seay grew up with nature all around him. And as his father's son: he also happened to grow up knee-deep in the harsher realities of the wild places many folks never really venture out into.
"My father is a wood sculptor and has made fine furniture my entire life," Seay explained to me in a recent interview. "He shared his knowledge of nature with my siblings and I while taking hikes and camping throughout the state."
I've heard it said before that parents who introduce their children to the outdoors at a young age are often rewarded with children who tend to turn to nature again and again later in in life. Which would possibly explain quite a bit about why Tom is the artist that the folks from the Bellefonte Art Museum (BAM) 133 N Allegheny St, reached out to recently. Turns out the museum people were looking for a Central Pennsylvania artist who could create an Earth Day (Monday, April 22) installation for the museum's much-lauded new 24/7 exhibit window.
Now that installation is a reality, and it's one that Tom had been jonesing to create for a long time now. But listen: I've got news for you. Don't expect popping colorful canvases of dandelion fields or quaint little panoramas of Thumper and Bambi frolicking in the morning dew, people. Because for a long time now, Seay has been wanting to draw Central Pennsylvanian's eyes and minds toward a much darker angle of Mother Nature's unfolding pageant.
And in a way, the name says it all.
That's right. Read that again.
That sounds like the next Megadeath record title, doesn't it? But guess what? It's also quite possibly the very best name for this walk-up-any-old-time-of-dayor-night free Earth Day show that he could have ever chosen.
Because 'Rendering Devastation' is an exhibit totally committed to shining a light on the horrific natural reality known as the Emerald Ash Borer. In case you haven't heard, the Emerald Ash Borer is very small bug causing enormous damage all over the world including right here in Penns Woods. First identified in North America during 2002 and in western Pennsylvania during 2007, according to the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, these "half-inch long metallic green beetles originally from Asia, can be found in nearly every county of the commonwealth."
And they are literally feasting on the insides of our ash trees. As larvae, they bore into the wood and gorge themselves. The result is a perfectly healthy ash tree that begins to die a lingering death. Within 3-5 years, the tree is gone.
Thankfully, some people are trying to fight back. But it isn't easy. The state and federal governments are in constant need of funding for the kind of ecological monitoring that needs to happen in situations like this, but funds are limited until the public speaks up. This is why art is so vital, why it's always been so vital. Art can open the eyes of even the most uninformed. Art, when it resonates heavily on the hearts and minds of the observer, does what very little else can do in this world. It moves you. It makes you want to do good things.
And that's exactly what both the BAM organizers and Tom Seay are counting on with this one. It's art with a message. A loud loud message.
"Nature has been a major inspiration in my artwork throughout my life," Seay reflects. "And so after hearing my dad tell me about the Emerald Ash Borer I decided to make a design for a large scale sculpture I never expected to actually be brought to life. A few weeks ago I was contacted by the Bellefonte Art Museum asking me if I might be interested in doing an installation that would be shown over Earth Day and if I had any ideas that may relate to this day. So it turned out the stars aligned and BAM made my dream of making this large sculpture turn into an installation, which is fantastic."
And what will the final work look like?
"This installation will be entirely sculptural and without paint as well," Seay says."This allows the material of the installation to be seen and become an integral part of the work."
Look. Spring is imminent. This part of the world of ours is poised to return to life in all the old beautiful ways any moment now. The first green shoots aren't so far off. The days are getting longer, the sun- believe it or not- she's growing warmer, little by little. Soon the whipping winds of winter will turn to gentler breezes altogether, and with that: those darker days will be behind us for a while.
But don't be fooled, my friends.
Nature, in all her glory, can still render devastation down on us when we least expect it, you know?
"I hope this will linger in the viewer’s mind for longer than the time they spend with the installation," Seay concludes. "It would be great if they were intrigued enough about this work for them to look into environmental issues on their own. And even better to engage in making our world a better place for our children and ourselves."
Exactly. No truer Earth Day words could ring truer.
Take your kids down to see this window.
You never know. Maybe, just maybe, they're actually the ones who are gonna make this world a better place.
'Rendering Devastation' by Tom Seay
24/7 Display Window, West Side of Building Exterior, April 1st-30th. Around the Clock
Bellefonte Art Museum
133 North Allegheny Street
Museum hours Friday, Saturday, & Sunday 12;00 - 4:30 p.m.
While at your visit to BAM, head up to the 3rd floor to witness Underground Railroad: A Journey to Freedom exhibit. That permanent feature highlights the escaped slaves who sought safe passage to freedom in the north via a secret network of people who wanted to help abolish slavery altogether.
*This exhibition is supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency fund-ed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
The Bellefonte Art Museum is supported by the Central Pennsylvania Convention & Visitors Bureau. Learn more about the CPCVB by visiting www.visitpennstate.org.
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