On the Nature of Things: Special Reading

On The Nature of Things is an art exhibit featuring works by Rina Yoon and Marsha McDonald. For the opening reception, we have invited regional writers to respond to the theme of the show.

The title is a nod to a philosophy that has emerged across cultures, that we are all made of the same atoms, atoms that philosophy describes as infinite in scale and indivisible.

The philosopher Lucretius wrote the poem, "De rerum natura" (translated as On the Nature of Things), which challenged the belief that gods controlled human fate. It did not challenge the existence of gods, but the notion that people should fear gods. It takes the future of humans out of the hands of the Fates, placing that future in humanity’s own hands. "De rerum natura" is just one exploration of an idea that has emerged across civilizations, one that reconnects us with a sense of place within the natural world when systems go out of balance.

The reading will conclude with talks by the artists on their artwork and the underlying philosophy behind the show.

Marsha McDonald Wisconsin artist

Marsha McDonald lives between Wisconsin and Tokyo. She uses photography to connect different homes, taking a micro-focus on details surrounding her: Japanese canals and streams near her apartment(s) in Tokyo and a river near her studio in Wisconsin; images of household items recreated as prayer flags. McDonald writes, “The substance of a thing is never far from the emotions and thoughts it evokes...Objects as spirit, memory, and reflection—[this] is what I’d like to explore.”


Jeff Porter Iowa City essayist

Jeff Porter is the author of Lost Sound: The Forgotten Art of Radio Storytelling, Understanding the Essay (with Patricia Foster), and Oppenheimer Is Watching Me. His essays and sound works have appeared in Antioch Review, Isotope, Northwest Review, Shenandoah, Missouri Review, Hotel Amerika, Wilson Quarterly, Contemporary Literature, Seneca Review, Blackbird, and Atticus Review, among other journals. His film and radio work include The Men Who Dance the Giglio, Writing on Rock: N. Scott Momaday, Dublin USA, Herby Sings the Blues, The Angel of History, and She Said He Wrote. He is a Professor in English at the University of Iowa where he specializes in contemporary literature, creative nonfiction, comparative media, and sound- and film-making.


Chuck Steblefiled Milwaukee Wisconsin poet print

Chuck Stebelton is author of two full-length collections of poetry, most recently The Platformist (Cultural Society, 2012). His first book, Circulation Flowers (Tougher Disguises, 2005), was winner of the inaugural Jack Spicer Award. Recent print objects include LocuStLed (with Paul Druecke, WPBC, 2016); Ongoing (with Team Nerd Letterpress, 2016); Morning Dub andA Southern Exposure (Lynden Sculpture Garden, 2015 / 2014); Keep (Portrait Society Gallery, 2014); and 'Tis (Wisconsin Triennial, 2010 / John Riepenhoff Experience, 2009). As a Wisconsin Master Naturalist volunteer he has offered interpretive hikes for arts organizations including Lynden Sculpture Garden, Friends of Lorine Niedecker, and Woodland Pattern Book Center. He was Literary Program Director at Woodland Pattern from 2005 to 2017. He currently serves as Program Coordinator for Interfaith Older Adult Programs in Milwaukee. 


Ready to Visit?

Arts + Literature Laboratory is located in Madison’s Schenk-Atwood neighborhood at 2021 Winnebago Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53704.

Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday 11am-3pm during exhibitions or by appointment. Please check the exhibitions calendar before planning your visit, as the gallery is closed between exhibitions and other schedule changes are posted here.


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