Published December 28, 2020 by Susan Hoffman Fishman for Artists and Climate Change, an initiative of The Arctic Cycle.
The exhibition included ecoartspace members Marcia Anneberg and Michele Brody.
Multi-disciplinary artist Jeff Carpenter is passionate about creating a radically new dialogue on the climate crisis. Towards that end, he conceived and curated the exhibition, FEMA: Fear Environmental Mayhem Ahead, which ran from October 31 through November 8, 2020, at the Icebox Project Space in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. FEMA was developed in just six weeks from start to finish so that it could serve as a space for open dialogue before the pivotal U.S. presidential election on November 4.
FEMA included 11 regional artists, whose work encompassed paintings, installation, multi-media, maps, and participatory elements. Their contributions to the exhibition directly and forcefully confronted the existential threat of rising tides, the homelessness it has and will continue to precipitate, and the political stalemate that has prevented critical action.
To add a visceral sense of the coming reality, Carpenter and his volunteer crew filled the entire 3,300-square-foot gallery with 10,000 gallons or eight inches of water. Once the gallery was flooded, the space became a white reflecting pool, which enhanced the impact of the dramatic work. In order to navigate the space, visitors entering the exhibition were provided with white rubber boots. Carpenter reported that the experience of sloshing around the gallery with childlike abandon offered them some comic relief from the overwhelming seriousness of the exhibition’s content as well as from feelings of anxiety and despair.
Installation view of FEMA: Fear Environmental Mayhem Ahead, 2020
In our recent conversation, Carpenter explained how the exhibition came about. He noted that when his sister sent him a copy of a FEMA Flood Factor Map showing predictions of where flooding would occur in her Florida neighborhood, they discussed how the map, with its attractive, color-coded patterns, looked like something that could be seen in an art exhibition.
From that initial discussion, Carpenter began thinking about enlarging additional maps and creating an exhibition around them in Miami, Florida, where flooding has already become a common occurrence. After that option failed to materialize, he switched his focus to flooding predictions and Flood Factor Maps related to Philadelphia and began searching for an exhibition space in his own hometown. He was surprised when the maps indicated how serious the flooding would be in just fifteen years if nothing were done to mitigate the crisis in the meantime.
Continue reading on the Artists and Climate Change website HERE