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Picturing plant life 

Nature and man's impact on it inspire Leibert's work

Mark Leibert spent the formative years of his life growing up on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, marveling at its lush vegetation and uncorrupted nature. He remembers being shocked on the rare occasion when he would see evidence of man's mark on the paradisiacal bounty, like the day when on an ocean swim, he was startled by a drainpipe.

That early immersion in nature's splendor and the resulting wariness toward human interlopers crops up in Leibert's art again and again.

Like most residents of the modern world, Leibert has had to come to terms with nature in its despoiled state, especially after two-and-a-half years living in Atlanta, land of construction sites as far as the eye can see.

Leibert's paintings and silk screens comment upon the various ways society has tried to manipulate nature, whether in Capt. Cook's 18th-century voyage to the Hawaiian Islands or in genetically modified corn.

Leibert produces his stark, graphic design-influenced images of poppy plants, delphinium and rhododendron in soft butter yellows and leaf greens with an intense environmental awareness. His silhouettes of plant life seem almost accusatory, like sentient beings asserting their presence in a world that has steamrolled over them.

"We have a responsibility to control ourselves," says Leibert, whose artwork can be seen in the most recent Southeastern edition of New American Paintings and at www.markleibert.com.

A marriage of art and technology has defined many aspects of Leibert's life. He received his MFA in painting and digital art at the Rochester Institute of Technology and is currently the webmaster for the High Museum of Art.

Leibert has carried his interest in the disastrous consequences of scientific meddling into other realms, as when he collaborated on a 30-minute opera inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. He designed the sets for from Frankenstein, which was staged last year at Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery.

Leibert acknowledges the role of science and technology even in his artmaking. His process involves photographing the plants, silhouetting the image in Photoshop and then projecting them onto a surface.

His choice of plants is always changing and reflects his current environment. While an undergrad at the University of California-Berkeley, he wove images of pomegranates into his work. In Georgia, he has turned to the state's official weed, kudzu.

And like a man haunted by the memory of the first woman he ever loved, he thinks often of plumeria, a fragrant bloom native to Hawaii.

"It has a really sweet smell. ... When I go back to Hawaii it overwhelms me."

felicia.feaster@creativeloafing.comNext Wave is an occasional feature spotlighting emerging artists in Atlanta.

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