Consider a leaf.
That’s just part of what artist Peter Eaton Gurnz, of Edgartown and Los Angeles, wants people to think about when they view his new exhibition, “Five Leaves Left,” in Miami at the annual Art Basel art fair, which opened Thursday and runs through the weekend.
The exhibit is a presentation of Mr. Gurnz’s BOXeight art collaborative and the London-based HUS Gallery. Large panels featuring a stark black-and-white photo of collapsed trees in Cedar Tree Neck provide a background for five free-standing vertical frames, each with a massive image inside. Four of the images are of vibrantly colored maple leaves, collected after Hurricane Sandy. These surround an image of a woman — Mother Nature is the fifth leaf, Mr. Gurnz explained in an interview last week, and represents love.
“As a photographer, I get to take a picture . . . as an artist, I get to make narrative experiences,” he said.
The exhibit’s title takes its name from folk musician Nick Drake’s 1969 album, and has a bit of an apocalyptic feel. But that’s the intent.
“It’s . . . culturally saying the world is dead,” Mr. Gurnz explained. “We have all these dead infrastructures in life — political systems that aren’t working, and yet they still stand and we have to look at them.”
But even in the face of the dying surroundings, little things, the simplicity of a leaf, for example, remain. Places like Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. Gurnz said, are oases for appreciating and acknowledging the details.
“Physically, for self-preservation, I come to the Vineyard,” he said
The entire exhibit was created over three months in the barn studio on Mr. Gurnz’s property in Katama, which has been in his family since the 1800s. Wooden frames were constructed, photographs were printed, and the arduous process of making the acrylic gel pieces which Mr. Gurnz is perhaps best-known for began.
Each photograph is printed on a plate, as if making a monolith, and is then covered by gallons of nonpigmented acrylic base — paint without the color. When the layers of acrylic are thick enough, Mr. Gurnz peels them back away from the plate, lifting the image with it.
“[So] it’s a painting, but I didn’t paint it,” he said. “It’s a photograph, but that’s only five per cent of it . . . it’s a process that breaks a lot of boundaries between photography and sculpture.”
“Five Leaves Left” took on greater importance for Mr. Gurnz last week, after he learned of the sale of the WMVY radio signal. The music from the radio station provided the soundtrack for the exhibit’s creation. When traveling abroad for work, Mr. Gurnz would still call in to the station to talk to manager Barbara Dacey.
“I just like to hear the beach and boating forecast,” he said.
He plans to donate a panel from “Five Leaves Left,” or perhaps another of his photographs (two are on display at the Port Hunter), to the ongoing WMVY fundraising efforts.
“[WMVY] has been a big part of all this happening,” Mr. Gurnz said. “The prices the gallery is trying to sell these for is huge. It would just take a few people to step up.”