Natural Philosophy
Curated by Paul Nicholson

November 2 - January 7, 2017

Allentown, PA – Martin Art Gallery at Muhlenberg College presents the exhibition Natural Philosophy, featuring ten artists whose work explores various approaches commonly associated with scientific inquiry. Natural Philosophy will be on view Wednesday November 2, 2016 through Saturday January 7, 2017. The exhibition will open with a public reception from 5 to 6:30pm on November 2, 2016, and will include a curator’s talk in the gallery on Wednesday November 16 at 5pm.

Empirical science is based on the idea that we can isolate “things”, measure them, and replicate the results under strict controls. Philosophy of nature was an earlier mode of inquiry that preceded modern natural sciences, and attempted to explain our physical universe based on observation. Like artists, natural philosophers’ inquiries were aimed at articulating ephemeral and invisible “things” beyond the grasp of our senses by applying deductive reasoning to qualitative observation. While any research method can be organized, natural philosophy is distinct from the modern scientific method in that it employed observation to make conclusions largely through logic.

Natural Philosophy explores ways in which artists hope to gain an understanding of natural processes by exploring the nature of truth through aesthetic, methodological and philosophical approaches more commonly associated with scientific inquiry. Recognizing the fertile overlapping of empirical truth and subjective artistic inquiry, Natural Philosophy presents a chorus of creative researchers whose personal investigations explore sex, death, and the environment. The end product is a unique body of evidence that lays bare our intimate relationship to the natural world.

The artists in Natural Philosophy interrogate our relationships and responsibilities to the natural world. They pose alternative realities and solutions, as often as they ask new questions in their creative research. Works by the artists Judy Chicago, eric fleischauer and Barbara Kendrick experiment with the practical and iconographical application of cultural-anthropological research, focusing special attention on reproduction and mate selection. Ali Kazma, Mariele Neudecker and Paul Vanouse show works that pose basic existential questions in the anthropocentric framework. Works by Andrea Hornick, David Mann, Alberto Rey and Julie Tremblay consider our interconnectedness to our physical and biological world.

Artist and writer Eugène Fromentin believed that “art is the expression of the invisible by means of the visible.” Artists measure, observe and isolate “things” in pursuit of new knowledge. The artists’ studio is in fact a laboratory where they complete experiments through creative research; the end product is presented as creative work. Art employs a host of methodologies inspired by emotional, intellectual and purely imaginary influences. If there is any realm of discourse that artists dominate, it is likely that of the subjective. If empirical science seeks to identify demonstrable facts, artists, much like yesterdays’ natural philosophers, are perhaps in search for something even greater than fact, they seek truth.

About the Curator: Paul Nicholson is the Director of Martin Art Gallery at Muhlenberg College.


Julie Tremblay
The Nature of Nature #19, 2015
Powdered charcoal and oil varnish on vellum
Courtesy of the artist

Mariele Neudecker
It Takes The Planet 23 Hours and 56 Minutes
and 4 Seconds to Rotate on its Axis, 2013
video/projection, 5:00‌ mins
Courtesy of the artist &
Galerie Barbara Thumm

David Mann [left & right], Judy Chicago [center]

Paul Vanouse, Latent Figure Protocol [left], David Mann [3 works on right]

Alberto Rey [left], Barbara F. Kendrick [right]

Barbara F. Kendrick [left] Alberto Rey [right]

Ali Kazma Taxidermist 2010 [left], Alberto Rey Aesthetics of Death [right]

‌David Mann
Lux, 2015
Oil.alkyd on canvas
Courtesy of the artist &
Margaret Thatcher Projects

Andrea Hornick [3 works, leftmost], Eric Fleischauer [rightmost]



Contact Information

Jessica L. Ambler, Ph.D.

Director, Martin Art Gallery
Address Muhlenberg College Baker Center for the Arts 2400 Chew Street Allentown, PA 18104