“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars”
— Walt Whitman
For its inaugural participation in KIAF Seoul, Newchild presents a solo exhibition by Brooklyn-based painter Madeleine Bialke (b. 1991, Elmira, New York, US). Titled Leaves Of Grass, the exhibition features in the artist’s distinctive visual language a collection of new paintings and drawings developed exclusively for the fair.
In Leaves Of Grass, the artist showcases a pictorial autobiography that explores the symbiotic relationship between human experiences and the natural world. The exhibition encapsulates personal connections and memories Bialke forged while visiting her parents’ farm in Trumansburg, near Ithaca, New York. Since her formative years at the age of 10, she has roamed the expanse of an austere terrain that bears semblance to the landscapes of Minnesota, where her parents were born. Among the exhibited works is a portrayal of the Greek revival home that has etched itself into Bialke’s memories. Similarly, an aged black walnut tree finds its way into one of the depicted canvases, accompanied by a swing that dangles from its bough. Bialke’s skilful invocation of memory is intertwined with quintessential American ideals such as familial bonds, interpersonal relationships, and the human condition.
The works in Leaves Of Grass also offer a subtle commentary on the democratic essence inherent in nature, a theme resonating from the verses of Walt Whitman’s poetic compilations ‘Leaves of Grass’ (which have, in turn, lent the exhibition its title). Nature, a paragon of democracy and unity, remains impartial towards humanity’s diverse facets—racial, gendered, social, and geographical— and unifies us through our shared experience of nature. This shared encounter with nature forms a central concern within Bialke’s artistic framework. The chromatic palette, reminiscent of scorched earth, serves as an allusion to the recent wildfires in Canada that have cast their ominous spectre over the northeastern expanse of the U.S. The astounding orange haze that traversed the sky from New York to Florida, transforming urban landscapes into scenes that mirrored apocalyptic visions, serves as a poignant commentary on the ever-escalating climate crisis.
Bialke’s upbringing, immersed in the rhythmical cycles of nature has broadened her visual vocabulary with richness and harmony. The exhibited works weave a narrative of inspiration, drawing from nature’s cycles of rebirth and growth as symbols of hope. A lifeless tree becomes the nurturer of new plants, echoing Whitman’s verses of ‘Leaves of Grass.’
“A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? . . . . I do not know what it is any more than he. [...] Or I guess the grass is itself a child . . . . the produced babe of the vegetation.”
This presentation marks a significant milestone as it represents Bialke’s first solo exhibition in Korea and Newchild’s first participation in KIAF.
Artists: Madeleine Bialke