Artist pits nature against industrialism

Decayed architecture versus overgrown greenery reminds us of environmental issues

Dominika Dembinski stands with her art in Ontario Hall.
photo supplied by Dominika Dembinski

For Dominika Dembinski, fine art and decaying architecture are a natural duo. 

As of last year, Dembinski, BFA ’19, began exploring scenes of overgrown industrial architecture, unused factories and warehouses reclaimed by nature. It’s fundamentally an environmentally conscious piece of work.  

“My paintings are all environmental landscapes: they’re meant to address concerns of deteriorating environment like industrialism, pollution, man-made structures and abandoned architecture,” Dembinski told The Journal. 

Having finished two paintings of what she expects will be a collection of 10 or 11 pieces, Dembinski’s intention is to display her work at the end of the year BFA art show in a Solange style. 

Popular in mid 1800s France, the style hangs paintings from floor to ceiling, side by side.

In a gallery setting, where paintings are typically lined up one by one along a single wall, this style has an overwhelming effect on its viewers. 

The paintings grouped together are all scenes from a singular theme, with an unrelenting impact. There’s no calm space or blank wall acting as a break.

For her work, Dembinski expects she’ll need four large paintings, and six or seven smaller pieces to complete her vision. 

“The main thing I’m trying to do with all paintings is to explore the intersection of aging architecture and beauty,” Dembinski said. 

“Even though the architecture is harmful to the environment, the whole point of everything is to challenge our visual senses.”  Bringing together the ideals of a beautiful natural landscape and the decay of industrial buildings, Dembinski paints a picture of life in unlikely places. 

One of her paintings, “What we left behind,” shows a hallway in a factory or warehouse that is now overgrown by greenery. The walls of the building are cracking, the paint’s peeling. 

Underneath the walls there are the remains of burst pipes and stains covering the ground. 

The factory isn’t operational and nature has taken back the land; vines and trees twist into the building through cracked walls and broken windows.  

The people who built and worked in the factory are gone, giving nature time to regrow and return to the industrial setting. 

“It’s supposed to show how in our world, people come and take over nature, build over top of it, then when they’re done with it, leave and move on,” Dembinski said. 

“That painting specifically is supposed to feel a bit haunting and empty.”

Dembinski’s paintings critique environmental apathy and careless waste. 

She comments on these destructive outcomes, saying nature is something to be revered and respected and will outlast pollution. 

“I would always love for my art to be open to interpretation because I think everybody sees art differently, so it’simportant for everyone to draw their own meaning, but I want to drive the point home that we need to work to save the environment,” Dembinski said. 

A striking combination between visually appealing art and societal collapses, Dembinski’s thesis is a collage of decay and survival—one sure to shock viewers into awareness. 


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