Installation view of INTERSECTIONS II (2024), Photo by Jon-Paul Rodriguez

Installation view of INTERSECTIONS II (2024), Photo by Jon-Paul Rodriguez

Artist Stephen Bethel, founder of Bethel Farm Yoga and Living Arts Center in Hillsborough, is redefining the intersection of nature and art through his unique sculptural pieces. Utilizing found tree branches and adding his own mark with richly-colored plaster, Bethel's work straddles the line between painting and sculpture, offering a 3D experience infused with a painterly quality. His creations, ranging from wall-mounted pieces to freestanding sculptures reaching up to 10 feet, are a testament to his fluidity and responsiveness to the natural world's inherent beauty and complexity.

Inspiration Drawn from Nature

For years, Bethel has been inspired by the decaying trees and intriguing shapes of birch bark and gnarly maple trees near his home. This fascination led him to collect unique pieces of wood, which eventually became the foundation for his art. Moving away from merely depicting nature, Bethel began to interact directly with these found objects, allowing the shapes and voids within the wood to guide his creative process. His background as a professional plasterer enabled him to masterfully integrate colored plaster with these natural forms, creating pieces that are both visually stunning and deeply connected to the environment.

Exhibition and Embrace of Nature

Bethel's work was recently showcased at the "INTERSECTIONS II" group exhibition at Anita Rogers Gallery in New York City, where he joined other artists in celebrating their intuitive embrace of nature. This exhibition marked a significant moment for Bethel, as it represented a shift towards allowing nature to take the lead in his artistic journey. The opportunity to bring his creations from the tranquil woods around his home to the bustling urban environment of Manhattan was a poignant reminder of the universal language of nature and art.

Integration with Bethel Farm

About a year ago, Bethel began integrating some of his sculptures into the landscape of Bethel Farm. These installations, set amidst flower beds and fields, invite visitors to experience the artwork in harmony with its natural surroundings. Starting April 1, guests at the farm will have the opportunity to explore Bethel's sculptures, both outdoors and in the dining hall, as part of their visit. Additionally, Bethel plans to incorporate a yoga class that includes time for students to engage with the art, further blending the worlds of nature, art, and wellness.

- Rafia Tasleem