April Flanders explores invasives with art at N.C. Museum of Natural Science’s gallery

04/30/2014 12:00 AM

04/29/2014 8:27 AM

April Flanders first found herself thinking about invasive plants and animals several years ago when she moved to western North Carolina.

Flanders, a printmaker and associate professor at Appalachian State University, had taken to hiking the trails near her new home and was fascinated by the ecology she encountered.

She was particularly struck by the effect of invasive species, those that are not native to an area and cause environmental, economic, or human harm, such as the kudzu plant or the fish species known collectively as Asian carp.

The theme of invasive species quickly found its way into her art as well, as she tried to unravel what invasive species signify in light of human actions that allow animal and plants to move across great distances.

“I’m interested in ideas of –– to put in an odd way –– globalization. And what globalization means when we’re talking about plants and animals,” she said.

Invasive species are sometimes introduced to an environment because of their beauty, but then spread beyond their confines and harm an area’s ecosystem.

Flanders’s work, which encompasses printmaking, painting, drawing and installations, plays with that theme, luring viewers in with vivid colors, patterns and repetition that depict invasive species and their effects.

“Beyond their Borders,” an exhibit of Flanders’ work, will be on display at the N.C. Museum of Natural Science’s Nature Art Gallery at 11 West Jones St. from May 2-26. An opening reception will be held during First Friday, the city’s monthly gallery walk.

Flanders grew up in Florida and Georgia, earning her B.A. from Florida State University and her M.F.A. in printmaking from Arizona State University. She landed at Appalachian State seven years ago, where she said teaching is an important part of her own work.

“There’s definitely a feedback loop there. I get a lot of energy from my students,” she said.

Flanders, who has explored the theme of invasive species for five years, said the questions the work raises about what’s original and how things are labeled and assigned value have been interesting ones to discuss with viewers.

Working through those questions is part of making her audience aware of invasive species and what they signal about the world.

“I’m hoping in part to educate about people about this issue and raise questions about the way we trade in this country, and the way we do business,” she said.

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