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In Our Nature

In Our Nature

J.R. McMillan

Art is about contrast and conflict—and humanity’s indelible imprint on the environment has never looked as striking, or haunting, as it does when explored by artist Laura Sanders. Her latest exhibition, aptly titled In Our Nature, runs through June 30 at Joseph Editions Gallery, 17 W Russell Street in the Short North.

“I do wonder if all this plastic will be our enduring creation, our fossil remains,” Sanders said. “I also consider the reciprocal nature of our relationship to the environment. We are shaped by it, and as we change the environment, we change ourselves.”

Those new to Sanders’ work could easily mistake the photorealism of oil and canvas for images that were captured instead of created. One such piece, titled “Winter Light,” features a young girl in a crocheted cap watching the sky through a large swatch of vinyl construction fence. The waves of orange plastic fold to form a series of tiny windows, casting eerie geometric shadows across her wind-chapped face and rumpled coat.

The exhibition also includes nostalgia-inspired, scientific field illustrations of flora seemingly trapped in plastic bottles—almost like specimen containers.

“The work in this show continues my interest in merging the figure and the landscape, with the drawings being the exception. In those, the plastic becomes a stand-in for the human presence,” Sanders noted. “In these, I have drawn plastic water bottles containing reflections of flowers with their Latin names in calligraphy. In my imaginary versions, we have only the captured reflections of the flowers available for study.”

The series is both warm and cold at the same time, like the organic curves of the plastic vessels. In barely a century we’ve gone from storing food we grew ourselves in glass jars to eating processed food from metal cans to drinking from plastic bottles filled with chemicals and carbonation. Despite their ubiquity, plastic bottles are both intimate and expendable—designed to hold in our hand and put to our lips, only to be quickly discarded and forgotten.

“I particularly love the paintings on paper in this show—her witty take on 18th century botanical drawings, trapping a blossom in a cage of a plastic water bottle,” agreed director Teresa Kelley. “Joseph Editions seeks to provide a platform for world-class art with local roots, bringing exciting artists from the larger art world to Columbus via the more accessible medium of editions, and showing work by incredible talents like Laura Sanders.”

“The work that perhaps encapsulates this exhibition best is the painting of a single plastic gun, held up, finger on trigger. But when we look closely, we see the gun is pointed back at the shooter. It’s a wonderful visual metaphor and I think this type of work is unexpected by those who have followed Laura’s career,” Kelley explained. “I love when an artist grows and changes, and I’m excited by how [Laura’s] work has been embraced by collectors.”

“The Ohio Portfolio project was a great opportunity for Ohio artists to go to New York and work with a master printmaker to create an original edition print,” Sanders explained. “The result is a great opportunity for collectors in Columbus to create a collection of Ohio artists’ work affordably.” Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Sanders was drawn to Central Ohio to study at the Columbus College of Art and Design; community and opportunity eventually helped make Clintonville her home.

“Recently, I had a conversation with a new arrival to Columbus, explaining how I met many of my artist friends—I kept coming back to the Ohio Art League and what a great community building organization it has been over the years,” Sanders explained further. “For me, having the moral support of artist friends has been a big part of what makes Columbus a great place to work.”

“With CCAD, the Pizzuti Collection, the Wexner Center, and the Columbus Museum of Art all having contemporary art exhibition programs, artists have the opportunity to see work that is being made now,” Sanders noted. “Being able to think about my work in the context of what is going on nationally without traveling to New York is a great asset to living here.” 

For hours and more info, visit For more of Sanders’ work, visit


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