Gallery North’s ‘Morphologies: Recent works by Lorena Salcedo-Watson explores the nature of...

Gallery North’s ‘Morphologies: Recent works by Lorena Salcedo-Watson explores the nature of art

'Swallowtail' by Lorena Salcedo-Watson will be on view at Gallery North through Aug. 11. Image courtesy of Gallery North

By Tara Mae

So much of nature exists in the balance of tension and release: the unrelentingly gray palette of winter gives way to the expansive vibrancy of spring blooms; birds sit on their nests for weeks in the hopes that their young will be strong enough to crack through their shells; and, people dare to dream of brighter tomorrows.

Morpholgies: Recent Works by Lorena Salcedo-Watson, on view at Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket from June 27 to Aug. 11, explores this interplay. Featuring 30 pieces including large-scale charcoal and pastel drawings, lithographs, and first drafts, the exhibit is a meditation on how the environment and nature merge with human experience.

‘Let It Go’ by Lorena Salcedo-Watson

“Having her do a solo exhibit here has been a goal for a while…This exhibit examines our symbiotic relationship with nature, our reliance on it, how we communicate with it,” said Gallery North Curator Kate Schwarting who met Salcedo-Watson while a student at Stony Brook University, where the artist is an art professor. 

Many pieces implement chiaroscuro —contrast between shadow and light — as a means by which to address ideas about the tenacity of life, the inevitability of death, and the determination of survival.

“Working in chiaroscuro — I want the drama, sense of falling into a black hole, you can stick your hand in there; I don’t want you to think in pretty terms — [do] not want color to add any other information. So, color is used to evoke mood in really specific moments,” Salcedo-Watson said.

Elements of color are deliberate contrasts; audacious vibrancy in stark relief. The art’s openness represents the vastness of the outdoors. “The abstract world she creates in her work is very singular; it is a celebration of beauty, nature, and curiosity,” Schwarting said. “The language Lorena creates with her art invokes organisms and structures that inhabit a totally unique space.”

It speaks to an understated grandeur that commands attention as it revels in the more abstract details of an exact image. For Salcedo-Watson, artistic scope and medium reflect the majesty of her subject matter. 

“Large scale gives you a sense of magnitude and awe. There have to be awesome things in your life. I encourage students to work large — it is liberating — keeping your drawing restricted to your wrist can be kind of sad since your experiences are life sized or larger,” she added.

Working in this manner enables Salcedo-Watson to create her own domain, in which she can guide and develop the narrative as she tracks its evolution. 

“I have always loved to draw, which is necessary to be a good printmaker. Lithography is a natural way of drawing, but you have multiples prints from the matrix, which allows you to see how you function as a problem solver. You have a record of your progress the whole way through,” Salcedo-Watson said.

The exhibit illuminates this process while also immersing its patrons in Salcedo-Watson’s interpretation of how nature nurtures. Her work is an invitation to envelop oneself in the wonder of the world while remaining rooted in realism.

“I always draw from observation, take what’s interesting to me, and play around with that,” she said. 

A longtime collector, Morpholgies features items from the artist’s cabinet of curiosities that have inspired her such as leaf fossils and root formations unearthed while gardening; insect exoskeletons gifted by friends; and other found objects that influence Salcedo-Watson’s work. 

Her fascination with nature’s detritus and remnants began at an early age and inspired her artistic practice.   

“I started drawing insects because the possibilities were huge with different varieties, but I also made stuff up and it was okay,” Salcedo-Watson said. “Not feeling like you have to follow the rules or always be accurate gave me permission to enjoy it more.”

Likewise, freedom of thought is what she seeks to convey to her audience. The ability to invoke the imagination is an ultimate endeavor of her art. 

“It’s not what I am trying to show you; it is what you think you are getting out of it. I try to put things forward and make you make sense of it. I could have a title to prompt you that this is what I am thinking about, but I want to actually engage you and make you think,” Salcedo-Watson said.

An opening reception will be held on Thursday, June 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. Salcedo-Watson will give an ArTalk and Print Demonstration on Saturday, July 20, from 3 to 5 p.m. These events are free and open to the public. For more information, call 631-751-2676 or visit


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