August 28, 2019

“Creature Comforts” At D&R Greenway

“PUMPKINSEED”: This painting on stone by Patrick Bernuth is featured in “Creature Comforts: Habitat Immersions,” on view through September 20 at D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center. The exhibit also features work by artists Annelies van Dommelen, Judith Hummer, and Minako Ota. An artists’ reception is Friday, September 6, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Desert, meadow, forest, marsh, water — each habitat creates a unique set of conditions for the wildlife that makes them home, offering nourishment, shelter, protection from weather, and other life essentials. In “Creature Comforts: Habitat Immersions,” on view through September 20 at D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center, four award-winning artists — Patrick Bernuth, Annelies van Dommelen, Judith Hummer, and Minako Ota — demonstrate the vital connection between art and preserving habitat.

At an artists’ reception on Friday, September 6, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Bernuth, van Dommelen, Hummer, and Ota will talk about what inspires them.

“Through preservation of more than 20,500 acres in central New Jersey, D&R Greenway has been at the forefront of protecting wildlife habitat for three decades,” says Director of Land Stewardship Tina Notas. “The vast, contiguous grasslands at St. Michaels Farm Preserve, for example, provide excellent opportunities to create and enhance habitat for grassland bird populations such as bobolinks, sparrows, and American kestrels.”

The milkweed, honeysuckle, and bluebells in Hummer’s paintings provide essential food for Monarch butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. Whether it’s the trees of autumn at sunset or in winter at dawn, Hummer is out there painting them. She is even there during abnormal weather patterns, such as snow in October. Hummer’s Fractured Birds suggests creatures who have lost their habitat.

“I tend to paint what excites me at a particular moment,” says Hummer. “It may be the twisted intermingling of trees or the way water cascades over rocks.”

Ota finds creature comforts in cats, those connoisseurs of comfort; hers live in harmony with plants, birds, and amphibians, as well as hummingbirds and butterflies feeding on irises and tulips. A Princeton resident who exhibits internationally, Ota was born in Osaka where she studied traditional Japanese painting. In the U.S., she’s worked as a painting conservator for 20 years, and now combines the techniques of East and West in her own paintings and multimedia work.

Bernuth works in acrylic on stone to create a glossy ibis, a great blue heron, a bald eagle, a barn owl, even a pumpkinseed — a spotted fish found in Carnegie Lake. The lifelong angler and outdoorsman took up painting in order to spend more time in nature. At first, he painted on the natural surfaces surrounding him, such as stone. “The colors and forms of the landscape and its inhabitants are forever changing,” he says. “I try to capture the emotions and perceptions that are not revealed in photographs or journals.”

Van Dommelen shows human figures whose habitats appear to be endangered — they are holding tight to what remains, surrounded by architectural ruins. Her artwork serves as a reminder that after human destruction, nature will return and take it all back. Having grown up in a family that valued nature and spending time outdoors, van Dommelen, who trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, finds “the human condition, nature, and bestial imagery are part of my thoughts.”

“From splashes of vibrant violet to shimmers of shining gold leaf, the techniques in this exhibit provide artistic habitats for the magnificent birds, fish, butterflies, bees, and even cats within their frames,” says Curator Diana Moore. “The exhibit as a whole celebrates the exciting creatures that delight us and warns us to preserve the habitats that sustain them.”

D&R Greenway Land Trust is located at One Preservation Place, Princeton. RSVP for the September 6 reception at For more information, call (609) 924-4646 or visit