The ecoartspace blog features artist profiles and interviews, as well as writings on ecological systems. We are interested in presenting work that our members are making in collaboration with scientists, and poetics including spoken word, opera, and performative work. Painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, drawing, and printmaking are all welcome media. Speculative architecture and public art are also encourage. Submissions for posts can be sent to info@ecoartspace.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

You can access the previous ecoartspace blog HERE (2008-2019)

ecoartspace, LLC

Mailing address: PO Box 5211 Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502
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  • Friday, March 01, 2024 10:06 AM | Anonymous

    March 2024 e-Newsletter for subscribers is here

  • Friday, March 01, 2024 9:11 AM | Anonymous


    Krista Leigh Steinke, Still-frame (00:01:26) from Sun Notations, 2018 (excerpt),10 min. theatre version | 16 min. installation loop

    Bright Horizons from Celestial Views

    Krista Leigh Steinke and Erika Blumenfeld on the upcoming Transmissions event in Austin Texas and the eclipse on April 8th

    interviews by Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein

    Krista Leigh Steinke and Erika Blumenfeld elaborate on their individual relationships as artists to the sun and the moon, the cosmos. Whether the sun itself becomes the manifestation of time and spatial dimensions as it does in Krista’s work, or a larger expression of deep inquiry and interrelatedness across the atmospheric expanse as in Erika’s work, both artists share an intricate understanding of the “somatic point of departure” that the events will capture. Both working with photographic imaging and documentation, their reflections interplay the illuminating shared space that the events will foster with deep contemplation.

    Krista and Erika were invited by ecoartspace to review artworks submitted by Texas artists and other members coming to Texas for the eclipse, for inclusion in Transmissions. Their own work will also be on display. 

    Transmissions is a one-day event that will take place on Saturday, April 6th from 11am to 8pm, at Canopy Austin, at 916 Springdale Road, in Austin, Texas.

    For more information GO HERE


    Krista Leigh Steinke, Sunspots and Slides, 2017-ongoing, archival pigment prints or sub-dye aluminum prints, sizes vary

    What are you most looking forward to during the upcoming Transmissions events?

    Krista: It will be interesting to observe the nuanced interplay among the diverse artworks showcased in the Transmissions exhibition, which will definitely inspire various conversations throughout the day. Mostly, I’m excited to be part of a community of artists, academics, enthusiasts, and the general Texas audience, all united in their shared interest in engaging in a meaningful dialogue centered around the sun and solar/lunar phenomena.

    Erika: What I’m most looking forward to is seeing all the selected artworks together and in communication with each other in the Transmissions exhibition, especially as a meditation on and celebration of the total solar eclipse that will occur over Austin skies two days after the ecoartspace pop-up event.

    The artworks, in a way, share individual methods of having received a transmission. In thinking of light transmission specifically, and the conveyance of how light acts during an eclipse event, we, in essence, become the medium through which the light passes. In this way, the artworks together also become a conceptual act of transmitting a response back to the sun.


    Krista Leigh Steinke, from: Time Scraps From the Universe, 2020 - in-progress

    Quite a transmission in itself! Krista, your pinhole photographs also reflect on being a transmissions medium between our planet and the sun. For example, in your work Sun Notations and Sun Mapping you track the movements of the planet around the sun to reveal interconnectedness across space. How do you relate to this moment of transition at the eclipse?

    Krista: The mystery of light and the passage of time is a thread that runs through much of my work. My video “Sun Notations” for example, that will be featured in the exhibition, took over five years to create. The experimental video animates over 50 pinhole solar-graphs that capture the pathway of the sun rising and setting over time, with exposures that lasted one hour up to an entire year. My homemade cameras, which sometimes contain multiple pinholes, are rotated throughout the exposure, so the rhythm of the sun’s movement becomes like a mark-making system, similar to the routine of crossing days off a calendar. Some of the exposures were taken in Texas and some in New York State. So, in this work, temporal and spatial dimensions literally expand, merge, and overlap. Incidentally, one of the animations in this piece was created during the 2017 eclipse.

    Undoubtedly, the 2024 eclipse symbolizes a unique juncture in the continuum of time. In April, the actual eclipse of the sun will unfold over just a few minutes and these few minutes will not occur again for another twenty years here in North America. I love thinking about how on this day, people will be pausing from their daily routine to focus on the sun. The event, for me, is a gentle reminder that we all share the same star at the center of our solar system. The sun is a thread that ties our past to our present and an important reminder that we are part of something much larger.

    Erika Blumenfeld, Light Leaks Variation No. 13 (meditation on evolution), 1999, 56 4×5-inch Type 59 Polaroid film, 72 clear pushpins, 31.25″ x 34.25″, Installation view: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, Oregon, Solo Exhibition, 2001, Collection: The Polaroid Collection

    That is beautiful. In fact, this common thread is a theme in both of your work, though your documentation approaches differ. Erika, you take a research-based documentary approach to examining natural phenomena such as this eclipse. What natural spaces are you taking inspiration from at this time? And how are you approaching them?

    Erika: Our ability to empathize with our ecological spaces is only as deep as we are willing to be fully present within them. To listen, to feel, and to sense them. While the idea of ecological archiving may at first sound like a scientific pursuit, humans physiologically evolved in relationship to these natural ecologies, and our interrelatedness is activated through our senses and embodied experiences. For me, this connectedness has material, experiential, and spiritual grounding. Archiving the ecological requires that one is part of that ecology with all our senses as witness.

    My work draws inspiration from the endless variations of natural phenomena that we can encounter in our natural world, and this curiosity and wonder extends first to our Earth and then to everything our planet is connected to across the cosmos.

    Erika Blumenfeld, Detail of Plate No. A12855 (Large Magellanic Cloud), From the portfolio Tracing Luminaries, 2022, Paper: 14 3/4 x 17 inches, Plate: 11 ¼ x 9 inches, Edition of 8

    My current projects are investigating these topics in multiple ways and through diverse mediums. My primary focus currently is with my Earthlight project, in which I am building a custom imaging system to send to the International Space Station to image the light of Earth from space and create a holistic portrait of Earth as light. With the Earthlight project, my goal is to tell a story of our world written in the language of light. Every planet has its own light signature, called albedo.

    Albedo is the direct relationship between the planet’s material composition and its home star. Earth’s luminosity holds the literal and poetic imprint of everything our Sun’s incoming rays have interacted with—everything that makes up our dynamic, interconnected biosphere that we are a part of. The project is an art, science, technology, and space activities collaboration that will produce albedo image data to benefit climate science and to create visualization artworks for the public. I am also working on new Light Recordings works documenting the upcoming total solar eclipse as well as the aurora borealis in the Arctic. Finally, I’ve been supporting NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Sample Return Mission by leading the high-resolution archival documentation imaging of the remarkable rocks from the asteroid Bennu that have recently been returned to Earth.


    Erika Blumenfeld, Astromaterials 3D project, a virtual library for exploration and research of NASA’s space rock collections (Credit: NASA/Astromaterials 3D)

    Wow, I had no idea about this! That is very exciting.  It also includes topics of both light and time that play important roles in your practice as well, Krista. How will you interpret the events?

    Krista: This relates closely to my choice to work in lens- based media. The word “Photography” means to draw with light, a recurring concept in my work. I am interested in how the sun and photo media are both conduits for light and time. Still photography can capture a single moment while moving images have the ability to document or record an experience. As mentioned above with “Sun Notations”, I feel like exciting results can happen when these qualities merge.

    On the day of the eclipse, I am planning on setting up 4-5 cameras that will be tasked to take timelapse videos, pinhole exposures, and sequenced still images of the eclipse. Most likely, the results will end up somehow combined into one project. Looking forward to seeing all the magnificent images from around the globe that will be captured that day.

    Thank you both for a mind-expanding interview! I look forward to following the upcoming event and different interpretations that are inspired by them. 



  • Monday, February 26, 2024 8:27 AM | Anonymous

    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    February 26, 2023

    This week we recognize Ann Rosenthal and her projects which represent milestones in a 40-year career in activist, community-centered, and environmentally engaged art practice.

    Infinity City, 1991-2002 (above) consisted of three installations including ANNIVERSARY, SHADOW, and 2001, exploring life in the atomic age and its legacy of nuclear waste. In 1991, Rosenthal's partner Stephen Moore took a job on the island of Guam, a U.S. island territory in Micronesia. While visiting him, they traveled to Tinian Island where the first atomic bombs were launched and dropped on Japan. This somber place and its ghosts spoke to them and compelled them to embark on a 10-year nuclear pilgrimage, taking Rosenthal and her partner to Japan and key historic nuclear sites in the western U.S. Over ten years, the project was exhibited in 12 venues across the U.S. An extensive website documented their travels, provided a chronology of humankind's relationship to the natural world (40,000 B.C. - 170,000 A.D.), and engaged communities impacted by Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

     click images for more info

    River Vernacular, 2003-04 (above) was a collaboration with Rosenthal and Steffi Domike. Inspired by the Hudson River Museum’s historic postcard collection, each of eight oversized postcards interpreted the social and natural histories of Yonkers, NY in relation to the Saw Mill and Hudson Rivers. The artists soaked cotton cloth in the river adjacent to where each photograph was taken, mapping the health of the Saw Mill as it flows from its source, through Yonkers, and into the Hudson. This work was included in the exhibition Imaging the River, curated by Amy Lipton for the Hudson River Museum.

    Moving Targets, 2013-15 (above) was an exhibition that marked the 2014 centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the most abundant bird in North America that was hunted to extinction within a period of 40 years. Moving Targets paralleled the plight of the passenger pigeon with the coerced migrations of Rosenthal's and Domike's mothers' families to North America in the wake of the pogroms in the Ukraine. While the ships, trains and telegraphs made it possible for millions of Jews to escape persecution, they also made possible the tracking and plunder of the passenger pigeon. The project linked both the artists’ families and the birds to ask why some groups——whether human or animal——are reduced to targets for extinction, whether intended or as a consequence of ignorance and greed. Works in the installation include collage, painting, maps and photos to tell the story of migration, loss, and survival. The project became part of a larger, citywide effort to commemorate the centenary, which included many cultural events and programs. Dr. Ruth Fauman-Fichman researched the artists’ family histories.

    LUNA (Learning Urban Nature through Art), 2016-2023 (above) was an ecoliteracy and visual arts program initiated and directed by Ann Rosenthal. It was designed to foster an appreciation for urban nature through hands-on art making for children, youth, adults, and families. LUNA was an outgrowth of a partnership Rosenthal developed with the Steel Valley Trail Council (SVTC), to educate youth about their riverfronts and trails, resulting in hand-painted banners that went up along the SVT. In 2016, she launched LUNA and developed an after-school program with the Kingsley Association, based on the earlier SVTC program. LUNA continued as an on-demand program, partnering with environmental and community organizations.  In 2022, Rosenthal and collaborator JoAnn Moran were commissioned by the Bloomfield Development Corporation to design and execute two asphalt art murals, reflecting the natural features of the adjacent Friendship Park in Rosenthal’s neighborhood of Bloomfield in Pittsburgh, PA. Similar to prior LUNA programs, ecoliteracy was a centerpiece of the project, which included bird and tree walks to engage residents with the flora and fauna in their backyards. The community was invited to submit drawings that the artists incorporated into the final mural designs. Over 70 people of all ages helped paint the murals over two weekends.

    The Disparaged Sublime: Salt Marsh Nova Scotia #2, 2022 (below) is a work which represents Rosenthal's recent return to her creative roots in painting and printmaking, celebrating her love of color, gesture, and form in nature and art. She is particularly drawn to places where water and land meet——fragile ecosystems that we endanger through ignorance, desire, and greed. Rosenthal strives to make such places visible and valued for their beauty, complexity, and evolutionary brilliance.

    Ann Rosenthal  is an artist, educator, and writer, who has interrogated the intersections of nature and culture through a range of environmental issues for over four decades. Her recent creative and professional accomplishments include: Artist-in-Residence, HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, Oregon (2018); Co-Curator for “Crafting Conversations: A Call and Response to Our Changing Climate,” Contemporary Craft BNY Mellon Gallery (2019); awarded “Woman of Environmental Art” from PennFuture (2020); one of four editors for Ecoart in Action: Activities, Case Studies, and Provocations for Classrooms and Communities (New Village Press, 2022); selected to design and execute two asphalt art murals with collaborator JoAnn Moran for Friendship Park in Pittsburgh (2022-23). Rosenthal received her MFA from Carnegie Mellon University in 1999. She teaches classes and workshops through Osher Lifelong Learning/University of Pittsburgh and Winslow Art Center. locusartstudio.org


    Featured images (top to bottom): ©Ann Rosenthal, 2001: PLUTONIUM, MARCH 28, 1941, collaboration with Stephen Moore comprised of digital posters marking nuclear anniversaries in 2001 and distributed via email; River Vernacular, 2003-04 (installation View), collaboration with Steffi Domike including digital prints, stained muslin, and acrylic paint; Moving Targets: An Exhibition of Extinction and Survival, 2013-15 (installation view), collaboration with Steffi Domike including mixed media on cradled wood panels, MDO map sections, wood panels range from 6 x 6 to 9 x 12 inches and maps maximum 48 inches in height; LUNA: Asphalt Art Murals, 2022-23, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; The Disparaged Sublime: Salt Marsh Nova Scotia #2, 2022, golden open acrylics on cradled wood panel, 8 x 10 inches; portrait of the artist by Michele McFadden.

  • Monday, February 19, 2024 10:39 AM | Anonymous

    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    February 19, 2023

    This week we recognize  Judith Selby Lang, and her works made since 1999 in collaboration with her partner Richard Lang, working with plastic debris collected along the Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California.

    Unaccountable Proclivities, 2001 (above), combines the colors of the ocean plastic that mimics and compliments Fiesta®Ware plates. It was an unaccountable proclivity that moved them to create these arrangements. By carefully collecting and "curating" the bits of plastic, they fashion them into works of art that matter-of-factually show, with minimal artifice, the material as it is. The viewer is often surprised that this colorful stuff is the thermoplastic junk of our throwaway culture. As they deepened their practice they found, like archeologists, that each bit of what they find opens into a pinpoint look at the whole of human culture. Each bit has a story to tell.

     click images for more info

    Unintended Consequences (above) was a series of photographs presented at the U.S. Art in Embassies, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, September 2010 - June 2012, organized by the US Art in Embassies program and was a collaboration between Ambassador John Bass and Assistant Curator Claire D'Alba.

    for here or to go?, 2021 (above) was a large scale installation presented at Lands End, at the former Cliff House, San Francisco, a project of the FOR-SITE Foundation. In the kitchen, the steam tables were filled with white plastic and white ceramic plates were piled with white beach plastic. All of the plastic dished up was found only on 1000 yards of Kehoe Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. It wasn’t left by negligent picnickers. Most of it has been at sea a long time before washing ashore. When the common use of plastic found its way into our lives during WWII, plastic was touted as an exciting new material that would revolutionize and indeed, it has provided new hips and knees, allowing for unbelievable medical advances. But we’ve been inundated with “convenience” and a throw-away ethos. In the swirl of debris, from food shopping to consumer goods, plastic is the unseen background of daily living. Besides the blight of plastic itself, a mad scientist's brew of toxic chemicals is leaching into our bodies. We have learned that every human being has traces of plastic polymers in their bloodstream. That’s the bad news we live with these days. There really is no choice when asked "for here or to go?"

    Ride-On, 2024 (above) featuring all-black plastic and a toy ATV, was exhibited recently in the exhibition “Far away is NOW” at 120710 gallery in Berkeley. "It is a complex reminder of our actions and their consequences on our environment,” says Francis Baker, the exhibit’s curator. “Another revelation occurs when one realizes that this is just the all-black plastic. The artists are using this to symbolize oil. It also amazes me to think about how much plastic there is that washes up, that they collect, for them to have a pile this big of fully black pieces. This makes me realize what we as a society are doing to our environment.”

    all of it (well, alot of it anyway), 2023 (below) was presented by FOR-SITE’s The Guardhouse project at Fort Mason, San Francisco, California, summer 2023. After nearly a quarter century of collaboration the Lang's excavated their two-ton collection of beach-found plastic objects to showcase a sampling of “all of it” so they might see our consumer choices reflected in their materials. This assorted thermoplastic junk-treasure dating back to as early as 1948 washed in from the Pacific Ocean onto one beach, a .6-mile stretch of the Point Reyes National Seashore, 50 miles north of San Francisco. The installation confronted the artists with evidence of this material continuing to amass not just in coastal deposits, but inside our bodies, and in the geological record of our time on planet earth. "all of it" was presented in partnership with Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.

    Judith Selby Lang, along with her partner Richard Lang, have rambled 1000 meters of tide line on Kehoe Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California, to gather plastic debris washing out of the Pacific Ocean and have collected over two tons of material. Their artwork has been featured in over seventy exhibitions in galleries and museums; educational and science centers including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artist Windows, the United Nations World Environment Day, the Cummings Gallery at Stanford University, and the University of San Francisco. Exhibition venues include the California Academy of Sciences, Sausalito's Marine Mammal Center, The Oakland Museum, Hong Kong's Ocean Film Festival. They were cited as co-authors in a report from the University of Tokyo about concentrations of pollutants in plastic pellets published in the 2009 Marine Pollution Bulletin. TV segments have included appearances on the PBS Newshour, The Travel Channel, Wowow Tokyo and The Today Show. In talks about the project they have appeared at the Newseum in Washington, DC, The Dallas Art Museum, California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Oakland Museum, Oxbow School in Napa, CA, and California College of the Arts in SF. Their projects have been supported by the Feigenbaum Nii Foundation, the Arts and Healing Network and the Open Circle Foundation. Plastic Forever- Finding Meaning in the Mess is the working title for their forthcoming book about their art and plastic adventures. www.beachplastic.com


    Featured images (top to bottom): ©Judith Selby Lang with Richard Lang, Unaccountable Proclivities, 2001; Unintended Consequences, photography exhibition at the U.S. Art in Embassies, Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, September 2010 - June 2012; or here or to go? at Lands End at the former Cliff House, San Francisco, California, a FOR-SITE Foundation project, 11/07/21- 3/27/22; Ride-On, 2024, at 120710 gallery, Berkeley, California, January 2024; “all of it (well, alot of it anyway)” for FOR-SITE’s The Guardhouse project at Fort Mason, San Francisco, June 24 - August 31, 2023; portrait of the artists.


  • Monday, February 05, 2024 3:00 PM | Anonymous

    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    February 5, 2023

    This week we recognize  Kay Westhues, and her ongoing photography work documenting the changing landscapes of rural life in the Midwest.

    Fourteen Places to Eat, 2004-2010 (above) was inspired by my memories of growing up on a farm in Walkerton, Indiana, and observing first hand the shifting cultural identity that has occurred over time and through changing economic development. When I moved back to Walkerton as an adult in 2001, one of my biggest complaints was that there were practically no places to eat out. So I was happy when news arrived that a new restaurant was opening there. Imagine my surprise when I read a letter to the editor in the local paper that stated we already had enough places to eat. The writer counted a total of fourteen places to eat, which included four restaurants, three gas stations, four bars, a truck stop, a convenience mart, and a bowling alley. This letter was published during the beginning of my project portraying small-town life, and it gave the series its name.

     click images for more info


    Westhues' Animal Swap Meet series, 2008- (above) documents the people, animals and places where humans buy, sell or trade animals in an open-air, flea-market-style setting. The most commonly sold animals are chickens and other birds, rabbits, pigs, reptiles, and dogs.Westhues is drawn to these places because they reflect the rural practices of small-scale subsistence farming and our complex relationship with the more-than-human species we live with.

     

    For The Portage Path, 2015 (above), was commissioned by the Snite Museum of Art (now the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art) to commemorate the City of South Bend, Indiana's 150th anniversary. Kay focused on a portage path that linked the St. Joseph River to the Kankakee River which had been significant in the lives of people in North America for hundreds of years. This trail was the only overland segment of an ancient water route between the Great Lakes region and the Gulf of Mexico. The course was first established by Native Americans and then used by the French explorers and traders who traveled from Detroit to New Orleans. “I was fascinated by the idea that this area had been the site of cross-country travel and trade for such a long period of time as I am by the trail’s almost total disappearance from our landscape. As there was no actual trail to photograph, I decided to suggest the idea of a pathway in each of the images. They were taken in the approximate area of the original route, and I did not try to conceal the human-made changes that have taken place along it. I want these photographs to remind us that the history of South Bend did not begin in 1865; people were living in this region for hundreds of years previously and their knowledge and use of the land were directly responsible for the location of this city.

     

    Wabash River Soundmaps, 2019-2020 (above) is a participatory audio project about The Wabash River, the major drainage system in Indiana, amassing its water from streams and rivers from the northeast to the southwest corner of the state. Thanks to two IAC Arts in the Parks grants, I visited three state parks along the river: Ouabache State Park and Mississinewa Lake and Salamonie Lake State Recreation Areas. As an artist in residence in 2019 and 2020, I made field recordings in the parks and in their surrounding communities and ecosystems. I also held workshops where participants recorded the seasonal sounds of the park, using digital recording equipment. All the sounds we recorded were added to the project soundmap. This activity is made possible with support by the Indiana Arts Commission, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and Sweetwater Sound Inc.

    Well Stories, 2011 (below), and The Specialness of Springs, 2021 are long-term explorations of roadside springs in the Midwest that are used as public water sources. This project is made possible, in part, with support from the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. This work examines roadside springs in and near my home state of Indiana. Traditionally, these water sources functioned as part of the public commons, freely accessed by travelers or those in need before municipal water systems were available. Some springs have been flowing for over a century and have played a central role in colonialization and Western expansion. The state once contained hundreds of springs in the public commons; today only a few dozen provide a safe water supply. These are still visited by individuals who collect the water out of preference or necessity. They are sites where geography, history, public policy, and public health intersect.

     

    Kay Westhues  is an artist, photographer and folklorist interested in documenting the ways in which rural tradition and history are interpreted and transformed in the present day. Her work encompasses the fields of photography, videography, audio and ethnology. Through her work she aims to describe the vitality and complexity of places and people whose lives are often overlooked and unexamined. Westhues creative projects have been widely exhibited in the Midwest, including the South Bend Museum of Art, South Bend, Indiana; Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame, Indiana; Midwest Museum of Art. Elkhart, Indiana; Noyes Cultural Arts Center, Evanston, Illinois; 2739 Gallery, Hamtramck, Michigan; and Pictura Gallery, Bloomington, Indiana. Her video Water Catchers was included as part of “Surface Tension: The Future of Water,” an international traveling exhibition organized by the Science Gallery at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. She has received support for art and curatorial projects through the Indiana Arts Commission and Puffin Foundation West. Westhues has a M.A. degree in Folk Studies (2017) from Western Kentucky University, a M.S. in Instructional Systems Technology (1998) from Indiana University, Bloomington, and a B.S. degree in Photography and Ethnocentrism from the Individualized Major Program at Indiana University, Bloomington (1994). www.kaywesthues.com


    Featured images (top to bottom): ©Kay Westhues, Velma’s Diner, Shoals, Indiana, 2010, from the series Fourteen Places to Eat, 2004-2010, archival ink jet print; Rooster and Hen, Animal Swap Meet and Flea Market, Starke County, Indiana, from the Animal Swap Meets, 2008- , archival ink jet print; Grapevine Creek, 2015, from the series The Portage Path; Wabash River Soundmaps, 2019-2020, archival ink jet print; Well Stories: Water Catchers, 2011,single channel video (10:59); portrait of the artist by James Korn.

     


  • Thursday, February 01, 2024 8:23 AM | Anonymous



    SunFlowers, An Electric Garden, a public artwork wanting to generate solar energy

    an interview with Mags Harries and Lajos Héder by Patricia Watts

    "The sun sustains all of our lives…. All of our energy is originally solar energy, (and) it has created our world and fuels all our activities. Coal and oil are stored solar energy, but they are running out, and obtaining and processing them causes problems. For our future, it is a question of how we capture and use solar energy, so that it keeps us going without environmental catastrophe. The sun and its light are the medium of most art.”  Mags Harries and Lajos Héder

    Mags Harries and Lajos Héder are a wife and husband artist/architect duo who have worked collaboratively to create public art works across the United States from their studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since 1990, they have completed over thirty public art projects with budgets up to $6 million. With the upcoming total solar eclipse in the path of totality in Austin, Texas, where Harries and Héder created a solar-powered work titled SunFlowers and where ecoartspace will hold a pop-up event nearby on April 6 at Canopy, we feature an interview with the collaborative team discussing the trials and tribulations of creating a large-scale work in the public sphere addressing energy resilience.



    Q. In 2006, SunFlowers was chosen out of 37 proposals for a signature art installation at Mueller, a LEED-certified planned community with eco-conscious mixed-use development, including single-family homes, apartment complexes, as well as retail offices and restaurants. Your solar artwork was selected by the community and was the most popular as well as innovative at the time. I can imagine you were super excited to create a work that was both aesthetically interesting, practical, and self-sustaining. Almost twenty years ago, what were the challenges of creating such an innovative public artwork?

    A. Each proposal and or commission we do is always particular to the place. It is important that we observe and see what are the elements that make this place unique. What was unique about the project in Austin, Texas was that the 711 acre former Mueller airport had been transformed as an ecological community development. Of the 37 RFQ applicants, 4 finalists were asked to create a proposal to mask the Big Box companies that had been built on the edge of this development along the major Interstate Highway I-35, a six-lane expressway. This seemed like an impossible task. Rather than mask development, we decided to reinforce what was important about this site, its environmental goals to create a livable community. I-35 runs north-south, perfect to capture solar energy. The site, which is 1000 x 30 feet long, has a substantial easement from the highway that is maintained by state mowing crews. We are not artists that think of making iconic stand alone work but the site was huge and the fast-moving traffic was our audience. We would create an impact that was strong enough to detract from seeing the large box retail. We had a choice. We could create multiple elements that would face in one direction, or the other choice to have one unit that would track the sun that would not have the same visual impact.


    We knew nothing about solar technology so we had to find a company that could help us design the system. We had to find someone that could build our solar panels and a glass company that could cut and drill glass. As these pieces would also be experienced from below, it was important that we sandwiched gels in the glass to create a feeling of stained glass when looking up at them. Each of these elements had to be researched and tested. As these were not standard modules they had to be electrically certified. We made ¼ scale models out of foam board to develop the form and then had an engineer to calculate whether the forms were strong enough to resist 100mph winds. As with all our projects we employed local companies to build and paint the forms and engineer the project.

    Q. I understand there was a delay in launching SunFlowers, as the flowers did not glow as intended due to complications with the solar panels? Is this something that today would not represent such a problem? with technological advances in the solar industry?

    A. There was a lot of research that had to go into this project. I think we would go with the same process at this time, unless we used standard sizes that were already certified. We had many people contact us after the work was officially launched, even a representative of the Chinese government who inquired about making more. Though, this might not have been economically feasible. There are more solar companies and expertise now that might make it easier, and tax incentives that did not exist then. We pushed the boundaries by making a non standard shape. Because the public could walk under the panels, the glass had to be laminated. The colored gels were also special. It was important that the underside of the panel would be beautiful.

    We never repeat a project elsewhere, so we would have had to redesign a different form, perhaps with a different shape of solar. Would it have been more economical? Probably not, but we did have command of the process and technology changes all the time. The LED lighting was also specially designed to be brighter.


    Q. The Powerdash online monitoring site is currently not working. Is this something you feel strongly should be relaunched? How long was it tracking the energy generation? And, what is the current generation, kilowatt-hours each year?


    A. The Powerdash online monitoring system was funded after the project was up by another grant so that schoolchildren could monitor how much energy it was creating. It was measuring 1800 KW hours per year. Anne Graham, who worked with the city was responsible to get that grant. From an article she found, over a nine year period SunFlowers had generated 386,006 kWh, the equivalent of 565,000 miles of carbon emissions from a car.

    Q. The 15 Sunflowers are considered one of the largest public art works in the City of Austin and had a budget over $600,000, fifteen years ago. Do you think it would cost the same today?

    A. I am not sure what it would cost today as these were all specially cut and designed. There are more solar companies today, though are all using standard fixtures. Perhaps it would be harder to find collaborators as there is more demand as people are installing more and more solar units on their homes. This project was done at a time that solar was not as popular and certainly not experienced as an art project.  

    Q. Has the project received any awards? It seems like the Public Art Network should have recognized this work.

    A. I think the only award was the Livable City Vision Award in 2010 (Austin, Texas). Because this was administered by the city public art program, they never recognized it as theirs. And, the city did not submit SunFlowers to the Americans for the Arts, Public Art Network Conference.

    Q. The selection process was coordinated through the city’s Art in Public Places program, but the development is private, owned by Catellus Development Group. How common is this arrangement? I know most of your public art projects have been coordinated through city programs. Was working with a private developer easier or more complicated?

    A. We have one other project similar to this in Philadelphia titled Light Play (2016), also administered by the city public art program for a private developer on a building in the arts district. I do not know how many cities demand such a partnership. As the public art field is hard and there is high turnover in administration, maintenance records, which we always provide can get lost. On this project our same point person is still with the company. We have direct contact with him. Oftentimes city agencies do not have a maintenance budget, or someone employed by the city to maintain public art pieces. Perhaps a private company has more incentive to maintain a public artwork.

    Q. From your artist statement for SunFlowers you state that the sun and its light are the medium of most art, can you expand on this concept?


    A. Projects that came after SunFlowers include Light Gate (2015), Light Play (2016), and Xixi Umbrellas (2012), which are also all directly related to the sun and light. Engaging the sun allows there to be a daily change of perception. In a city like Austin, it was amazing how few people were installing solar power. It seemed we were selected because the city saw itself as forward looking, all the other artists proposed Texas stereotypes. I am sure we were also aware that it was a good move to demonstrate that Catellus had created a new environmentally friendly development from an old airfield.


    Q. There are organizations that focus on technology based artworks to offer inspiration and practical applications for energy generation, such as the platform called Land Art Generator, directed by Robert Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian. I was a panelist for their Freshkills Park (Staten Island, NY) awards in 2013, and wrote an essay for their Powering Places (Santa Monica, CA) initiative in 2016. Something that concerns me with technology-based art is that it can often be a way to entertain more than a real world impact, by reducing our need for fossil fuels. For you, what percentage of this type of work should be art or entertainment and how much supporting ecological systems? What would be the best balance?

    A. Rarely do we do work on this scale. But we were dealing with a huge highway, it had to have scale to be significant. It was important to us that it actually harvested energy and that one of the seven panels of each illuminated the flowers at night. It had to be iconic. Power dash was a way that children could monitor it so in that way it was a teaching tool, not entertainment. Change is important to this piece to see it during the day, then at night. The other thing we extended our site to include the large mowed grass embankment. We planted seeds from the Ladybird Johnson Foundation so that this “no man’s land” would burst with wildflowers. We also negotiated with the State Highway crews to only mow after the flowering season. This piece is not only experienced from the highway but it also has an inter-twining walking path between the SunFlowers. And, the path connects two open spaces parks within the development. Do these actions create change? I am not sure, but it is important to embrace something that one believes in.

    Having had a recent conversation with Leo Lopez at Catellus who told us that the inverters had been stolen, which at a minimum would cost $100,000 to replace, it is sad that Sunflowers can no longer harness energy. They will, however, be sure that the flowers will be lit at night, though from an electric source and not by its own energy. So perhaps now fourteen years later they exist as a symbol rather than generating their own energy. This does not make us happy, but hopefully they will still be an important landmark for Austin. The sad part of public art it is that it is out there in the elements and so many of our projects have little budgets to restore and maintain them. What is important is that Catallus cares to maintain them. In that way the SunFlowers are successful.


    Mags and Lajos, thank you for sharing about your experience with this inspiring solar work.


    NOTE: As of today, led by California, rooftop solar installations fell by 12 percent nationally in 2023. It’s the first decline since 2017. It is estimated that California, which accounts for the bulk of the United States market, will see a 41 percent drop in 2024. Over 100 solar companies filed bankruptcy in 2023. (Article published January 26, 2024, Grist)



  • Thursday, February 01, 2024 6:19 AM | Anonymous

    February 2024 e-Newsletter for subscribers is here

  • Monday, January 15, 2024 8:35 AM | Anonymous

    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    January 15, 2023

    This week we recognize  Millicent YoungMillicent Young, and her ongoing work made with natural materials including sculpture and installations.

    "In 1997, I saw the film Calling the Ghosts: A Story About Rape, War and Women, a documentary about building the ultimately successful case before The Hague court to classify rape as a war crime. If I Speak... (above) tackles the complexities of testifying: of re-inhabiting the wound that the telling of one's story of violation and survival requires. As importantly, it asks "If I speak who is listening?" In the work, the testimony of Bosnian rape camp survivors is printed on both sides of the seven suspended ceramic folios. Printed in reverse on the verso, the excerpts are readable in the reflections in the wall mounted mirror alongside marks of violence that the thin clay bears. Simultaneously, the viewer sees their own face reflected in the mirror as they become part of the story unfolding in real time.  If I Speak... dismantles separations we make and interrogates the moveable boundaries between witness, survivor, and perpetrator, between observed and observer, between there and here, then and now."

    click images for more info

    Sweet Chariot, 2011 (above) is from Young's series titled Vehicles, which explores hybridity of animal, plant, and wheel. At times playful, at times menacing, the forms invite reflection on the wheel, an invention that altered the evolution of human civilization and a symbol that possesses such archetypal power.

    When There Were Birds (i), 2019 (above) began as a sculptural installation for an exhibition at 11 Jane Street in Saugerties, New York. Six months later, it developed into a collaborative performance with three musicians, including Iva Bittova, Steve Gorn, and Timothy Hill. The initial installation and sonic explorations were captured with video (click image). The collaboration ultimately wove the trio's improvisational music, Young's choreography, and several poems by Jane Hirshfield and Eileen Myles spoken by the artist with the 13 suspended forms into When There Were Birds (ii), a single live, sold-out performance at Broken Wing Barn also in Saugerties. The natural late afternoon November light that shafted in through the clerestory and skylights was used as the start of the piece. The feeling of the 280-year-old barn and the farm-to-table meal that followed brought an intimacy to the project.

    Ceasefire (Gathering the Bones of the Beloved), 2023 (above) does not make a distinction between the slaughter of ecocide and genocide. Nor between historical periods and forms of lamentation. The ceasefire of the title is also a sonnet of the same name by contemporary Irish poet Michael Longley, referring not only to the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland but also to the Trojan War and the sacrifice peace requires.

    "Entering Millicent Young’s site-specific retrospective Alter Altar: 20 Years, 2023 (below) in the two newly refurbished barns is like entering a concise representation of human history. Themes of loss, reverence, extinction, as well as shared humanity and the longing for connection, permeate Young’s detached and poetic presentation. Her use of locally found materials pays homage to the Hudson River valley and the stillness to be found here; indeed, the viewer feels as though she has entered a sanctuary, a place to sit still and let the natural process of appreciation unfold. Attention, like Ariadne’s thread (referenced in one piece), travels from one thoughtful work to the next, leaving rashness behind. One senses that Young has taken the time to hone her technical skills, to tend to her ideas, to let her metaphorical offerings ripen." click image below to continue reading review in Sculpture magazine by Nina MDivani

    Millicent Young    studied visual art, craft, music, and poetry at The Dalton School and in the museums and streets of New York City, which formed the foundation of her broad art education. Cross-cultural childhood experiences and encounters with profound poverty, the diversity of her family background, and her immersion in rural lifeways and wilderness were formative influences on the artist's social conscience and citizenship. Young went on to study at Wesleyan University, the University of Virginia (BA 1984), the University of Denver, and James Madison University (MFA 1997). Young was an art educator from 19862003, teaching studio art and art appreciation at the secondary and college levels and hybrid forms of movement practices in a community dance studio. Since 1993, she has worked as a freelance master gardener and landscape designer, focusing on permaculture and healing. Young has received two Professional Artist Fellowships from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; four grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (NYC); and two individual artist grants from the New York State Council on the Arts/Arts Mid Hudson. Her work is included in the National Museum of Women in the Arts collection. Young's work was featured on the cover of Sculpture Magazine (March/April 2020). In 2022, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Art, Design, and Art History at James Madison University. Young currently resides in the Hudson Valley, New York, having relocated from rural Piedmont, Virginia, in 2017. She designed and built her current live/work space in the foothills of the Shawangunks. Her intimacy with place and all who inhabit it shapes Young's practices daily. www.millicentyoung.com


    Featured images (top to bottom): ©Millicent Young, If I Speak…, 1998, ceramic, steel, mirror, testimony from a survivor of the rape camps excerpted from War Crimes in Bosnia-Hercegovina vol.II. 82 x 91 x 10 inches; Vehicles, 2009-2012, Sweet Chariot, 2011, hickory, grapevine, adobe, twine, hair, 39 x 106 x 42inches; When There Were Birds (i), 2019, grapevine, hair; Ceasefire (Gathering the Bones of the Beloved), 2023, cedar, cherry, oak, steel shackles, barbed wire; 45 x 25 x 53 inches; ALTER ALTAR: 20 Years (2023); Portrait of the artist in her studio. All images courtesy of the artist.


  • Monday, January 08, 2024 3:59 PM | Anonymous

    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    January 8, 2023

    This week we recognize    Nancy Winship Milliken Nancy Winship Milliken, and her place-based environmental art practice since 2008.

    Tika Whare, 2013 (above) is a site-specific installation in Turangi, New Zealand on the Te Hapua farm owned by the Truebridge family. In Maori, Tika Whare (pronounced Teaka Phorae) means true home. "The home is made of materials all found on the farm: bamboo, silage netting, and the wool from the thousands of sheep that surrounded me while I worked out in the paddocks. The flexible structure “breathed” and shifted in the wind as if it was alive, but was stationary among the flock. The sun traveling through the day provided unique lighting through the wool, reminding one of light filtering through the lacy leaves of the forest nearby and the delicate design of Polynesian and Maori art. Subsequently, the transitional sculpture has shifted with the winter winds on the exposed hillside and currently resembles a structural carcass decomposing into the ground. Process is an important part of my art and every morning as I worked in the field with sheep surrounding me I was informed by their interaction with the landscape."

     click images for more info

    "I pick plants from the fields surrounding the studio and cast them into limestone and sand, materials from our Vermont soils. This act of memorializing the fields (or even a season, if one could do that), of trying to keep the plant’s natural form, then set the field on a pedestal (much like the horses and war heroes in most town and city centers), becomes an act of resistance from the studio. Even the resulting sculpture becomes a carbon sequestering monument, as limestone is part of the carbon cycle-in contrast to the environmentally detrimental hardscape of an urban center (cement and asphalt have a negative impact for the earth). The installation of the indigenous plants of a region will be like having a year round textural stone field, or woodland, in all of its natural abstraction of form. These white limestone memorials/monuments placed in the public sphere, in neighborhoods for example, that once were fields, will reference the long history of humanistic public memorials and monuments of war and community heroes, and honor the landscape that was lost due to human encroachment. It will put nature on a pedestal in an abstract, un-curated form, much like what we see in nature’s natural state. The context of the memorial/monument in a city hardscape melds culture and nature together in a site specific installation."

    How to turn the charred beams of an historic barn into art? This was the question that Milliken and her collaborator poet laureate Chard deNiord posed to each other as they met near the site of a fire that destroyed an hundred year old dairy barn at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. After several minutes of staring at the beams that had been dragged out of the collapsed barn, Milliken and deNiord settled on the idea of creating an evocative epitaph for the barn— something that both memorialized and elegized the destroyed landmark. deNiord suggested that he and Milliken think about the biblical phrase, "Let the dead bury the dead" as a starting point, acknowledging the futility and even irreverence of trying to create something transformative out of incinerated rafters. Milliken and deNiord then went their separate ways for several weeks in their mutual efforts to find respectful expressions that deferred to the barn's remains speaking for themselves as ruined yet iconic objects. Milliken took the first initiative by removing her hand from her memorial by allowing one of the beams, a synecdoche for the entire barn, to speak for itself as a drag mark on a linen shroud laid out on the field near the site of the former barn. deNiord followed by writing a poem that attempted to do justice to the mark it left.

    Printing is mark making with pressure, the use of a matrix to impress information on a substrate. Environmentally and socially themed bricks were made collaboratively with farmers, poets, artisans, interns, and the community of Deerfield Academy (above). The process was one of discovery, setting up situations to happen without knowing the outcome. What words would the Deerfield community submit in response to the question “What do you pledge to the earth?” This open method of a sense of wonder is an important approach to be treated with the utmost care and respect in the studio.

    Nancy Winship Milliken         maintains a place-based environmental art studio committed to building community through collaborative expressions of reverence for the land, humans, and animals. The artist creates sculpture, installations, prints and photographic enactments concerning the health of the land and surrounding communities, aiding in the desired change for the (socio) environmental course of our society. The practice of her studio is as much about process as it is about object. From finding and harvesting bioregional materials, to molding, weaving, burning into form, our hands and senses “know” the material intimately. The different smells, textures, and raw sensation of making the form is all a part of informing the outcome of the work. For the outside work, once the sculptures are installed, there is a letting go, a handing off of the process to the environmental influences the landscape. The sculptures record the sun, rain, heat and cold, even air pollution in their materials creating a living journal of the elements of the environment. A history of wind. A visualization of time. Her studio is committed to using an artistic platform as an expression of  environmental, climate and social change through engagement in community, collaborations, and mentoring creative environmental leaders. This is an open studio inviting artisans, poets, environmentalists, builders, students and farmers, to work together in response to the landscape, people and animals surrounding us. The studio strives to use sustainable and re-claimed materials, often re-using cast off materials from cultural usage or past installations. Milliken received her Masters of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Arts and Design in 2008, and her Bachelors of Science at University of Vermont in 1984.


    Featured images (top to bottom): ©Nancy Winship Milliken, Tika Whare (True Home), 2013, bamboo, silage netting, raw wool, 14 x 9 x 8.5 feet, collaborators Truebridge Family, Turangi, New Zealand; Limestone Field Series, 2021-present, StoneField, 2022, 4 x 4 feet, feld plants, limestone, steel; Ribbon, Epitaph for a Barn, 2018, raw canvas, charcoal, 20 x 5 feet, collaborator Chard deNiord, Shelburne Farms, Vermont; Earth Press Project, Pledge, 2019,earth, steel, 7 x 7 x 5 feet, Von Auersperg Gallery, Deerfield Academy, Massachusetts, collaborators Reflex Letterpress, Terra Collaborative, Chard deNiord; Pasture Song, 2018-2022, post and beam charred timber, netting and horse hair (re-claimed cello bow hair), 15 x 17 x 1.5 feet, DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts; Portrait of the artist walking in her studio field in Vermont. All images courtesy of the artist.


  • Monday, January 01, 2024 9:18 AM | Anonymous

    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    January 1, 2023

    This week we recognize  Leah Mata Fragua Leah Mata Fragua, a yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini Chumash artist/scholar  working in place based art, exploring the intersections of environment and social justice.

    "My artistic evolution has led me to explore the ephemeral, where the intent of my work is not meant to last forever but rather exists in transient moments and challenges our own perception of time and mortality. As a placed-based artist, I am deeply rooted in the ancestral lands of the yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini (Northern Chumash) tribe along the California Central Coast. My mission is to create ephemeral works that honor my community’s values around sustainability practices while shedding light on pressing environmental issues. I believe that my work can serve as a platform for protecting cultural resources by bringing greater awareness to the environment where I collect my materials. In this respect, my work also provides a narrative about the importance of tribes in exercising our sovereign gathering rights."

    click images for more info

    "Historically, my primary medium was abalone, chosen for its intrinsic link to specific landscapes. However, the climate emergency and subsequent regulatory restrictions have necessitated a shift in my material palette. This challenge led me to explore the art of papermaking. Integrating handmade paper into my practice not only allowed me to maintain a strong geographical connection in my work but also opened new avenues for artistic expression. The process of papermaking, from pulp preparation to the final pressing, has become a metaphor for regeneration and sustainability in the face of environmental challenges. It represents a new chapter in my artistic journey, one that blends with my environmental ethos."

    "In terms of subject matter, my pieces often depict landscapes on the brink of change, capturing the fleeting moments of natural beauty and cultural significance. Through my art, I work to transport viewers to these places, making the distant and abstract tangibly immediate. The integration of place-based details is meticulous, creating an immersive experience that not only showcases the beauty of these landscapes but also serves as a clarion call for their protection."

    "In my recent research, I explore the intersections of art, environmental science, and community engagement, using papermaking as a tool to delve into themes of sustainability, cultural identity, and ecological consciousness. This exploration is more than an artistic endeavor; it's a commitment to deepening our collective understanding of our relationship with the natural world and inspiring action towards its stewardship."

    Leah Mata Fragua      is an artist, educator, and member of the yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini (Northern Chumash) tribe located on the Central California Coast. As a place-based artist, Leah’s kincentric approach seamlessly blends shared iconography with personal imagery, highlighting the impact each has on the other. She uses a diverse range of materials, from synthetic to organic, placed based to modern, to explore the interconnectedness and dependence between land, kinships, and self. She understands that her art is a reflection of the way she prioritizes the protection of traditional materials and the continuation of art forms that are important to her community, which intersect with her individual practice. Fragua is an adjunct professor in the Indigenous Liberal Studies department at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She travels between New Mexico and California, maintaining close ties to her tribal community and ancestral homelands. Her award-winning work is included in many public and private collections internationally. She was also honored with a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship in 2011. She was selected as a Master Artist recipient for the Alliance of California Traditional Arts (ACTA) in 2013 and, most recently, the 2020 Barbra Dobkin Fellowship at the School of Advanced Research. Her education includes a B.A. in Anthropology and an M.A. in Cultural Sustainability from Goucher College, and she is currently completing her MFA at the Institute of American Indian Arts. www.leahmata.com


    Featured images (top to bottom): ©Leah Mate Fragua, New Cultural Resources (Detail), Northern Chumash, 2017, elk hide, oil, strows, plastic bags, pop lids, 5 feet, 5 inches; California poppies, 2023, handmade with abica plup, chamisa and madder root; Dentalium and Abalone Choker Necklace; Lepo Lepo, 2023, cottonwood bark, willow bark, and cotton, included in The Iridescence of Knowing at Oxy Arts; Traditional Northern Chumash dress with contemporary twist embellished with 50 meticulously cut abalone shells, each shaped like a water droplet; Self-portrait of the artist in her studio.



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