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Member Spotlight: Christy Rupp

Monday, April 18, 2022 9:00 AM | Callie Smith


April 18, 2022

This week we recognize the work of artist  Christy Rupp.

"The way we choose to identify with habitat creates our reality. It is this concept, the framing of our opinions of nature, that fuels my studio practice. Like most baby boomers in post war America, Walt Disney films introduced me to nature, framing my ideas about the environment. Here, majestic nature is presented as a resource. In Bambi’s world, man and deer can’t coexist. We are locked in conflict. That’s an old myth that has gotten us deeply in debt to the environment. Science is where the ideas begin, but I would like my art practice to dive deeper into people’s daily experience."

"[Filters and Inverts was] made to collect sediment from the unprecedented turbid releases dumped into the Esopus Creek in spring of 2021. Climate change comes home to the NYC watershed, as we are again made aware of NYC’s amnesia in planning for resiliency amid increasing weather events. There is more mud washing into the Ashokan Reservoir than ever before. NYC Department of Environmental Protection has chosen to release dirty water downstream while filtering clean water bound for NYC faucets. Mud-laden water released into the otherwise healthy creek severely affects water quality, reducing levels of light and oxygen within the water. Fine sediment also physically impacts the stream channel by filling in the natural voids and spaces in the stream bed. This reduces habitat for aquatic insects and smothers fish eggs and larvae.

I wanted to collect some of the mud coming down the creek and started making these in spring as we were witnessing the creek run brown for months at a time, as in recent years. The structures are unbleached muslin and steel, and mimic the appearance and behavior of resident filter feeding organisms like mayflies, snails, and leeches. The brown filters were in the water for a few weeks in spring 2021, the clean ones are for spring 2022. Believing that water should be clean only for human consumption is an assault on the rights of nature.”

“After looking at viral organisms, I became curious about man-made pollutants that dwell close to us, the chemicals in our new homes, our clothes, our foods. Unlike viruses which you can see under a microscope, molecules are theoretical, orbiting each other, always on the move. I wanted to make them tangible, to try to understand how they behave, as they create things like odors and sickness.

Working with a chemistry professor, we made drawings of Toxic Molecules, like the cancer causing chemicals dioxin and formaldehyde. He also explained how new inventions like Olestra, the fake fat, actually work in our bodies, to initiate tiny changes that occur at the invisible, molecular level. I teamed up some of these contaminants with natural forms—for example the spinal column of a rainforest newt was replaced with a chain of nitric acid (acid rain) molecules. Or, using the Olestra structure, I integrated it with a filter-feeding squid and an abstracted human digestive system, to demonstrate how this new ”miracle” molecule can sweep everything out as it washes speedily through our system, making it possible to gorge and starve at the same time. Only in America. Miroscopic micro organisms, these were inspired also by one my favorite artists, Juan Miro."

“Although Homo Sapiens are not innately selfish, our lust to dominate has brought us to a place where we all are threatened. Animal behavior has provided me a portal to the understanding of tipping and collapse, because animals are our reflection, and our partners. No longer a predictable seasonal event, today migration has become risky and inconsistent, as organisms of all sizes and complexity are driven in search of survival. Humans, microbes, as well as birds and mammals get caught in the crossfire of manmade ecological wreckage. The climate crisis is a crisis of the imagination, which we haven’t yet grasped. Being a species so adept at denial that a vision of the apocalypse is a welcome distraction from being in the present, we are in debt as well as in denial."

Christy Rupp is an American eco-artist and community scientist. Born in the Rust Belt of Upstate New York, she was too young for Elvis and too old for Barbie. For the past five decades Rupp has continued the search for clues that might explain how we have arrived at the edge of the Extractocene, a world permanently altered by the presence of Homo sapiensRupp was part of the artist collective Collaborative Projects (Colab) - organizer of the historic Times Square Show - as well as ABC No Rio and other East Village-era artist groups. Her solo show "Othered" opens April 21, 2022 at Howl! Happening, in New York City. christyrupp.com

Featured Images: ©Christy Rupp, "Protein Fix" (1995), "Filters and Inverts" (2021), "Spinning (Glyphosate)" (1998), cut paper collage from "Snapshot" series (2020), "Climate Sink" (2008).

Below: Portrait of Christy Rupp by Katvan Studios

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