“Natural Selections” a sight to see at NIU Art Gallery

By Heather Skrip

Saturday will be the last opportunity to view “Natural Selections” by Judith Brotman at the NIU Art Museum‘s Hall Case Gallery.

Leaves in various stages of life each fill one lit display circle in the halls of the Art Museum. However, the leaves are different than those found on the ground in a forest preserve-they have all been altered in some way using different colors and types of string.

“Common to almost all of my work is an eccentric stitched line or mark,” the artist’s statement reads. “Its function has included mending, adorning, editing, suturing, combining or obliterating.”

Most of the leaves have been sewn together, almost giving them the image of being reborn-even though they have signs of decay.

“[Brotman is] not hiding the fact the leaves are sewn together,” said Diana Arntzen, coordinator of marketing and education. “She’s giving the dead leaves new life.”

These implications of rebirth are not lost upon the artwork itself. The artist’s alterations are easy to spot, and the reason why she undertook a project like this is also quite visible through the delicate stitches made on the leaves.

The artist attributes much of her inspiration in this particular work to Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

Unlike modern-day films, the original book provided a much different outlook on the existence of a being whose life would forever be tainted by, among other things, quite visible, almost repulsive scars that further separated it from humanity.

Instead of viewing the obvious alterations as signs of disgrace, museum assistant Rachel Walters sees beauty in the leaves.

“[The stitches] are kind of highlighted,” Walters said.

Each leaf has a different addition made to it, in hope that it will live on forever instead of being blown away or raked up.

By taking a part of nature commonly disregarded, Brotman seeks to breathe new life into otherwise dead objects.

A blog detailing the Museum’s efforts to create proper displays for “Natural Selections” can be found at: