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Ecosystem fragility at center of 'Hackensack Dreaming' exhibit

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An upcoming exhibition in the Duke Power Plant Gallery is more than just something pretty to look at. Amidst the translucent glass and beautiful blues of the installation lies a deeper message—one calling us to examine our polluted ecosystem and the delicacy of our planet.

The large-scale installation "Hackensack Dreaming," created by New Jersey artist Nancy Cohen, will be featured at the gallery starting Jan. 22 until March 5. The installation will serve as an atypical documentary of the Mill Creek Marsh, a part of the Meadowlands located in Secaucus, N.J, using handmade paper, glass and monofilament to create a "constructed reality" in the 1,500-square-foot gallery.

“[Cohen’s] work, while not documentary in a traditional application, is rife with referential essence,” said Power Plant Gallery Director Caitlin Margaret Kelly in a press release. “Translucent glass objects hint at a cedar forest, poking up through the water on an icy New Jersey day, and liquid rubber poured on the paper suggests, interchangeably, a wet or toxic surface.”

Cohen, who has previously exhibited “Hackensack Dreaming” on other college campuses, noted the relevance of the statement her work makes to some students.

“In the big picture, the installation is about climate change and environmental pollution, and that is certainly a strong concern of many college students,” Cohen said.

Cohen has exhibited her work across the United States, with previous sites including New York University, Yale University and Howard University.

“One big difference [in exhibiting on a college campus] is that there is no pressure for the art to be for sale so the commercial end of the art world goes away and the focus from all sides—gallery, artist, audience—is entirely on the art experience,” Cohen said.

As Duke Power Plant Gallery’s first large-scale installation, “Hackensack Dreaming” promises to be unlike anything the gallery has shown before.

“The PPG believes in the transformative power of the arts, and... ‘Hackensack Dreaming' continues that mission while expanding our repertoire into environmental art, and expanding our relevance to a wider part of the Durham community,” Kelly said.

The Power Plant Gallery is part of Duke's Center for Documentary Studies and is located at the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham.

Cohen’s installation will be exhibited at the Power Plant Gallery—which is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.—from now until March 5, 2016, with an opening reception and artist’s talk Jan. 22 from 5 to 8 p.m. The gallery is also open to student groups who wish to view the exhibit privately or hold a meeting in the space.

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