Pastoral Brooklyn

August 16, 2005 - October 2, 2005
Central Library, Grand Lobby
Pastoral Brooklyn

A group photography exhibition including works by James Ferguson, Lila Garnett, Nehru Kelevh and Kervin Maule

When we Brooklynites conjure the landscape we live in, we are likely to imagine a gritty topography of cement, asphalt, brick, stone, concrete, glass and metal, graced perhaps by an occasional tree, shrub or patch of grass. The iconic tree that grows in Brooklyn, the ailanthus, flourishes under the most disadvantageous circumstances, but in most parts of the country is regarded as an agricultural pest. Virtually nothing remains of Brooklyn's sylvan heritage, nor even of its far more recent farm economy. Looking at the borough today, it is hard to believe that as recently as the last third of the nineteenth century, Brooklyn was America's second largest agricultural producer. Those who preceded us in this space won a lopsided victory over the natural environment, a victory many now would consider Pyrrhic.

As Joni Mitchell sang so aptly in Big Yellow Taxi: "Don't it always seem to go; That you don't know what you've got; Till it's gone." Following an apparently universal rule of human nature, today's residents of Kings County clearly regard the borough's rare spots of greenery as precious treasures. This can readily be seen in the manifest pride with which Park Slope's hydrangea bushes are cultivated or in the manicured quality of the small lawns to be found in places like Ditmas Park, Marine Park or Bay Ridge. But, most of all, Brooklynites seem to bring a fierce individuality and possessiveness to their relationships with the public parks.

The four photographers in this exhibit approach Brooklyn's carefully constructed natural settings with divergent sensibilities that combine in various measure, pictorial, scientific, playful and romantic impulses. Consequently, although these artists focus largely upon the same locales-Prospect Park and Brooklyn Botanic Garden-they depict very different places. No doubt viewers will recognize many of these settings, even though they themselves see them in their own way, through their own mind's eye. Perhaps the good news is that it is precisely the very limited presence of nature in this borough that has somehow intensified our awareness of, and deepened our responsiveness to, the traces of it that remain.

Artist Biographies

During the 1980s, James Ferguson established himself as a promising new voice in contemporary American poetry. Since the early 1990s, he has directed his creative energies toward fine-art black and white photography.

Lila Garnett has been making pictures in Prospect Park for the past three years. She has worked as a photo consultant, archivist and editor. Her pictures in this exhibit represent her first extended color project. Contact Lila Garnett via email.

Nehru Kelevh has had a lifelong interest in Brooklyn and particularly its parks. Since the 1990s, he has worked professionally at photography, focusing primarily on nature, landscapes and photo restoration. Currently he is a music teacher in East Flatbush. Contact Nehru Kelevh via email.

For decades Kervin Maule has been taking pictures in Prospect Park and around the neighborhhoods of Brooklyn. His photos have appeared in numerous New York galleries and he is working on a landscape photography project in the Caribbean. Contact Kervin Maule via email.