The ecoartspace blog will feature artist profiles and reviews of exhibitions, as well as writings on ecological systems. We are interested in presenting work that artists 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
  • Wednesday, September 01, 2021 4:55 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    (Sun Eaters, From IDEAS performance @ Qualcomm Institute)

    The Rhythm that Flows Through Us All:
    Grace Grothaus’ Sun Eaters

    Interviewer: Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein

    Grace Grothaus creates immersive environments using computational media revolving around subjects related to the global climate crisis. Finding incredible intersections between technologies and the environment, she uses computational methods to aid the visualization and understanding of human impacts. In her recent work Sun Eaters, Grace has rewired ECG sensors to translate the electrical currents in trees into light. Similar to the human heartbeat, the trees express the pulses that give them life through the light that is presented. For the first time, the viewer can experience the life force in the surrounding plant life as part of the rhythm that flows through all of us.

    Hi Grace! Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. It is so exciting to learn about your work!

    Though your work is vast, and you have created incredible installations that encourage viewers to focus on the larger world around them, we will mostly be focusing on your piece Sun Eaters for this interview in correlation with ecoartspace’s focus on trees the last year. Can you start out by speaking a bit about your art practice and goals?

    As an artist working in computational media on issues arising from the global climate crisis, I focus increasingly on environmental sensing and visualization to open up conversations through public artworks. My projects generally take the form of interactive or responsive installations, though at times, I also make artwork through video, prints, and sculpture.


    (Sun Eaters, From IDEAS performance @ Qualcomm Institute)

    Plants are more similar to ourselves than perhaps we commonly give credit.

    Sun Eaters is an installation of sculptures that senses bioelectric energy and translates it into visible light for us to see by using ECG sensors. In Sun Eaters, I have focused specifically on measuring and visualizing bioelectricity in plants to call attention to them. Sun Eaters has been installed in a number of venues along paths where people frequently walk and the sculptures’ flickering lights can be seen. For much the same reasons that some stop signs and warning notices are outfitted with blinking LEDs, I’ve illuminated these trees with the same: to arrest your attention within our over-saturated world. The brightness of the lights in Sun Eaters is in direct correlation to the bioelectric pulse of the plant it is measuring. I hope that people will see that plants are more similar to ourselves than perhaps we commonly give credit. They begin to pay more attention to the more-than-human living ecosystems present around them in their daily lives.

    Plant blindness, a form of cognitive bias, is a common tendency to overlook plants and to treat them solely as a beautiful backdrop in front of which human action takes place. Yet plants trees, particularly, sequester large amounts of atmospheric carbon, and we need them to counteract our warming climate. For this reason and others, trees are vital to the health of our future and worthy of our increased attention. I believe that Sun Eaters can play a role in environmental efforts by acting as a visual aid in comprehension, and I hope that the project might trigger an expansion of our imagination: to consider the lives of plant beings of the world to be as worthy of attention and care as our own. Maybe Sun Eaters can provide an empirical interface for grasping ecological processes and ways of thinking about them?

    Seeing aids believing. Vision is our most important sense for perceiving and interacting with the surrounding world in terms of our attention.

    What a beautiful goal! By visualizing the bioelectric currents in trees, you are presenting something otherwise invisible. What role does making the invisible visible feature in your art practice? Why do you think this is important?

    I’m motivated by the understanding that seeing aids believing. Vision is our most important sense for perceiving and interacting with the surrounding world in terms of our attention. There are more neurons in our brains firing for the purpose of comprehending what we see than any of our other senses. At one time, microscopes awakened us to a microbial world. Maybe visualization of other invisible aspects of our fragile earth ecosystems will help us understand them better and subsequently take better care of them? It’s a question that I think is worth exploring.

    And Sun Eaters is a wonderful example of presenting that visualization. Can you explain a little about the process of creating Sun Eaters? What were your main takeaways from the experience?

    
I was researching about recent scientific developments in our understanding of plants as being able to do things such as learn, count, and share resources with one another via collaboration with mycorrhizal networks, and I came across artworks from the 1970s in the United States where people were using sensors to generate live music from plants. I started to experiment in my studio and became very excited by realizing I could effectively use ECG sensors to generate not music but light. Higher levels of bioelectric energy I translated to brighter light and lower levels to more dim light. It felt incredible to be able to watch the plants in my studio garden in this way. It felt like I was better connected with the plants, like the rudimentary beginnings of understanding plant ontologies better. My mind caught fire, and I wanted to go further with this. What more could I learn through such experimentations?


    (Sun Eaters, From IDEAS performance @ Qualcomm Institute)

    What an incredible connection to music! While describing your Sun Eaters project, you also discuss the rhythm of the natural world and how we are a part of it. Can you talk about your experience in the Mata Atlantica Forest in South America and the insights you gained from spending time there?

    When living in cities (which a majority of humans now are, for a majority of our time), we aren’t linked as closely to circadian rhythm cues. For parts of last year and this, I was spent time living well outside the city in the Mata Atlantica. I not only felt my own being tuned more closely to the daily cycle of sunrise and fall, but I also witnessed the other plants and animals do the same. Birds and monkeys and all manner of animals make noises daily during what is often called the dawn and dusk chorus. In fact, I recently learned that oceanographers have found that even fish are noisiest at dawn and dusk (it takes special microphones to hear it, though, which is why we didn’t know before). I enjoy thinking of it as an ongoing daily song that all living beings are participating in together. Perhaps I, as a human, need to connect consciously, and because as I am not living indigenously, I seem to forget.

    This topic of consciously connecting to the environment reminds me of an ever-diminishing attention span attributed to the twenty-first Century. You have even discussed climate change as “something happening on a scale that is not at a human attention span” and has produced work about that difference in time experience. Can you talk about this gap?

    That is an interesting question. Weather changes within the human attention span. and climate is a slower, intergenerational process. However, this is all changing. With our near exponentially accelerating storm patterns, rainfall changes, and ever hotter summers, we are beginning to see climate change within our attention span. But as for perceptual gaps, I think it is closely related to the importance of visualizing the invisible. How can and how does visualization help us to comprehend our world? These are important questions for me in the studio. 


    Now is not the time to give up but to do everything we can to reach zero emissions and create a just and equitable world for everyone: every person and every species.

    Absolutely! This summer has been such a pervasive and undeniable reminder that climate change is present and has been underscored further in the recent AR6 Climate Change 2021 IPCC report. What have you noticed in your communities, and how will the experiences of this summer influence the nature of your art practice?

    Yes, this latest IPCC report is an even more explicit and grave warning of what is to come. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about this, and the alarm bells are going off louder and louder as we witness the horrific evidence of the changes we have wrought to the climate, such as this summer’s fires and heatwaves. I often think that well before I was born people were awakened to the realization that the climate was changing, yet policies and politics did not change. Now it is 2021, and I am hoping that swift action is beginning to occur, and I think it is. Indeed this is the greatest threat humanity has faced, but conversely, it is our greatest opportunity to create positive change. Now is not the time to give up but to do everything we can to reach zero emissions and create a just and equitable world for everyone: every person and every species. It is a global ecosystem, everything is interconnected, and each is necessary to all the others. 

    In my communities of artists and environmentalists and people in various places that I have lived in my life, I hear an increase in openness to discussing the climate crisis and an upswell in commitment to make personal and system(s)-wide changes and thankfully, I hear one thing less and less: uncertainty that the climate is changing due to human action.

    What a call to action! Sun Eaters seems like a project that sits at an intersection of art, research, and experimentation. How do art and science feed off each other? What do you think that art can do that science cannot in these topics?

    These are very interesting questions to me. What are the boundaries between disciplines? Is science an endeavor of making discoveries? Is it new knowledge production? Are the arts conversely about reminding ourselves of timeless truths? Could an artist make art using the scientific method? Can scientists do research that includes emotions in their consideration? It’s clear that the distinctions are not clear cut, and generally, the answers are “it depends.” I’m interested in working horizontally with people across disciplines if the collaboration can mutually make possible things that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, and it is often the case. It is a very exciting space to explore.

    At a very young age, I made sculptures when I was learning about the Keeling Curve. Then I began making work it and about speculative futures. I also started wanting my sculptural work to be and do more, so I integrated electronics into my work. The fundamental framework of electronics is that you use inputs such as sensors, process the signal(s), and then output them through different things such as light and motion. At some point, I realized that this provides the possibility for not just making work about our environmental present or potential futures but also actually and specifically measuring our environments. I’m excited about where this line of inquiry is leading. Can my artwork do more and be more active; can my artwork itself act and have activist agency in the world? What will it take for Earth to reach zero emissions and create a more just and equitable world in the process? In what ways can I best contribute my individual skills towards this global, collective effort?


    Can my artwork itself act and have activist agency in the world?


    What new work(s) are you developing right now? You will be starting a Ph.D. in Digital Media at York University in Toronto. Can you talk about your research direction and what you see as your next steps?

    Next month I begin a Ph.D. program in Digital Media at York University. There I will be able to expand on the work started with Sun Eaters and new work that I am eager to develop regarding visualization of air pollution. At this time, that is all I can say about this new work, but I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months and years.

    Thank you very much for this opportunity to share a few of the ideas that fuel my artistic practice, and thank you for the support and community you foster for all of us involved with ecoartspace!

    Thank you, Grace, for continuing your incredible work! 


    Sun Eater's online Performance on YouTube


  • Wednesday, September 01, 2021 4:11 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    Watermill Center visitors and schoolchildren inspect ring of twigs by artist Laurie Lambrecht.

    Laurie Lambrecht at Water Mill Center, NY Review by James FitzGerald

    The sun is descending over a landscape that, at first glance, resembles many on the East End of Long Island: stands of oak and pitch pine, an understory of moss and blueberry, and yellow farm fields peeping through the trunks. However, a closer look reveals that this is no ordinary woodland. Some of the trees glow with blue, orange, purple, and white. Others appear to be masquerading in the bark of their neighbors; a beech tree has donned a girdle of pine bark, while an oak has cloaked itself as a conifer from base to the midriff.

    This forest of shapeshifters is the creation of Long Island-based photographer and multimedia artist Laurie Lambrecht. “I want the work to be sympathetic with the landscape,” she explains. “I want to draw attention to details people would otherwise miss without detracting from the natural setting. My work shouldn’t be the first thing you see.”

    The installation sits on the grounds of the Watermill Center, a center for the arts and humanities in Watermill, NY founded by theater director Robert Wilson in 1992. Lambrecht’s work provided the backdrop to the July 30 kick-off ceremony for the Center’s week-long summer festival, which also featured musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson and Shane Weeks, a multidisciplinary artist and member of the Shinnecock Nation.

    Lambrecht’s work is spread across the 10-acre site, coming to the fore in some areas and camouflaging itself in others. Our walk began in a wooded corner of the property, where she has wrapped tree trunks in a weave composed of plastic newspaper bags, dyed silk, and a warp of marine ropes. Blue is the dominant color, but flashes of orange, white, and pink glimmer in the late afternoon sun. The land slopes gently upward, channeling slanted beams of light toward the trunks. 

    Two oak trees which Lambrecht wrapped in weaving, with plastic-covered rocks beneath them.

    The ground below is sprinkled with what appear to be bright blue robin’s eggs. On closer inspection, they turn out to be rocks wrapped in the same blue newspaper bags that festoon the trees. The unclothed rocks around them bear the trails of slugs. One, deposited by an unknown passerby, is inscribed with the word “acceptance.”

    Lambrecht seems pleased by the ways in which these visitors, whether human or gastropod, have found ways to enter into dialogue with her work. She has been coming to the Watermill Center since soon after its founding and describes her work as the continuation of an ongoing conversation between land, artists, and visitors to the site. In recent years, she has examined how trees and vines intertwine and photographed these natural weavings. She has drawn inspiration from the woods and dunes of Long Island, where bittersweet vines and wild grapes form thick webs and tapestries. 


    Wrapped branches in the interior of the Watermill Center, New York.

    The next stop on our tour is an oak grove where Lambrecht has wrapped trees in linen sheets bearing photographic prints of other tree species. These “hugging wraps,” which she debuted in her 2019 installation at the Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack, New York, are designed to draw attention to trees and make people see them in new ways. 


    A beech in pine's clothing

    In a clearing a few feet away sit several piles of twigs wrapped in yarn. They form a color wheel of blue, red, and green. Lambrecht made around two thirds of them, while the rest are the handiwork of schoolchildren at the Westhampton Beach Elementary School and kids who visited with their families on Community Day at the Center. When kids return to visit the site, Lambrecht tells me, they always race to find their own twig in the pile. 


    Wrapped twigs mark the edge of the forest.

    The twigs, like the rest of the installation, will remain on site for the foreseeable future. However, the elements will ensure that they take on new hues and textures over time. Lambrecht is curious to see how the weathering process plays out. The color of the weavings, she says, has already changed and will continue to as the months wear on.

    Time is also a force of change over the short term. Over the chirp of an osprey, Lambrecht tells me, “As I figured out how to integrate the work with the landscape, I was driven by the light. The site faces directly west, and a beautiful orange glow sketches its way across the sky every evening. I think of the weavings as sundials that situate you and give you a sense of beginning, middle, and end.” 

    laurielambrecht.com

    Photo credit: Terri Gold

    James FitzGerald recently became a member of ecoartspace. He is a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, studying international environmental law and policy. FitzGerald currently serves as an editorial intern at Orion magazine, a quarterly publication focused on culture, place, and the natural world. As a nature lover raised on the East End of Long Island, he has long been familiar with Lambrecht's work and with the landscapes that inspire it.

  • Wednesday, September 01, 2021 1:58 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    The ecoartspace September 2021 e-Newsletter is HERE

  • Monday, August 30, 2021 9:56 AM | Callie Smith (Administrator)


    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    AUGUST 30, 2021

    This week we recognize the work of artists Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris.

    Featured is their installation work Eclipse,  installed as a part of an exhibition titleCross Pollination at Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Catskill, NY, May 9 – November 1, 2020.

    Eclipse is an act of commemoration for a lost species: the passenger pigeon, whose once massive population went extinct 100 years ago. As of the mid-19th Century, this dove-like bird was the most abundant bird species in North America and flew in flocks of millions that would literally darken the skies for hours when passing over. Audubon likened their appearance to a noonday eclipse. The last known passenger pigeon, Martha, died in captivity on September 1, 1914.

    Inspired by historic accounts of the flock movements, this video installation and soundscape evokes the once overwhelming, even frightening, numbers of the birds, as well as their delicate beauty, the sadness of their loss and irreversible disappearance.  An accompanying artist publication by Sayler/Morris extends the content of the installation.

    The original installation was designed specifically for MASS MoCA and was projected onto a wall and 50-foot high ceiling. The birds traveled over the heads of viewers, traveling a full distance of about 100 feet. The piece has since been re-configured for other spaces, including as a single monitor piece at the David Brower Center and also as a towering array of eight monitors extending into the atrium of the Berman Museum. The piece was originally conceived during a series of conversations with the author Elizabeth Kolbert about extinction—how to memorialize it and what such memorials can accomplish.

    Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris (Sayler/Morris) work with photography, video, writing, and installation to examine our changing notions of nature, culture, and ecology. Their work is often place-based and focused on historical research.

    Their work has been exhibited broadly in the U.S. and internationally, including at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Belvedere Museum, the Museum of Capitalism and the Southeast Center for Contemporary Art.  They have been awarded numerous fellowships including the New York Artist Fellowship, the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, the Center for Art and Environment Research Fellowship, and the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard Graduate School of Design. They are currently teaching in the Transmedia Department at Syracuse University.  Their archives are collected by the Nevada Museum of Art / Reno, Center for Art and Environment.

    In 2006, Sayler/Morris co-founded The Canary Project - a studio that produces visual media and artworks that deepen public understanding of climate change and other ecological issues.

    sayler-morris.com

    Above: Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris/Photo from https://cstms.berkeley.edu/research/artscience-in-residence-program/

    Featured Images: ©Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris

  • Monday, August 23, 2021 9:40 AM | Callie Smith (Administrator)

    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    AUGUST 23, 2021

    This week we recognize the work of artist John Sabraw.

    "Art is the mechanism through which I explore the fundamental metaphysical dilemmas we face as a conscious species. No medium or mode is unconsidered when attacking this pursuit. I look for idiosyncratic connections between things, the compression of time and distance, the glory of our universe, and natural and cosmological processes. A catalytic visual collation that generates a paradox revealing the fragile connection between technology, nature and man. An activist and environmentalist, my paintings, drawings and collaborative installations are produced in an eco-conscious manner, and I continually work toward a fully sustainable practice."


    Above: Petrichor 3, 8 x 8", laser etched maple burl, CNC routed coal dust and sculpting clay, oil paint, 23.5K gold leaf, cold rolled steel frame, 2017


    "There is a hidden network most people have no idea exists, yet each of us has a part in its formation : underground coal mines. In a recent series of art works I am unearthing these hidden topographies to examine their paradox. For they are at once wondrous feats of human ingenuity and engineering, yet also emblematic of our consumption and hubris. These underground excoriations are fascinating in their design, and compelling in their geography. By drawing maps of these coal mines, I am seeking an understanding of humanity itself.

    I have chosen to use technological instruments through digital interface to draw these maps, e.g. laser cutters and computer driven routers, to burn or excavate natural materials, thereby enacting the very scorched earth practice of resource extraction in America. There is a terrible beauty in the resulting artworks that balance the delicate with the brutal."

    Above: Chroma S4 Dragon, 48 x 48", AMD pigments and other paints on aluminum composite panel, 2017


    "The same holds true for my chroma series. These paintings seek to express the sublimity of nature, but also the fragility of our relationship with it. One aspect of the series that underscores this pursuit is the use of AMD pigments.

    I have partnered with Guy Riefler to extract toxic acid mine drainage (AMD) from polluted streams and turn it into paint pigment. Once the pigment is sold on a commercial scale, revenue will be invested back into the streams’ remediation.

    I became inspired to transform the toxic sludge after moving to Ohio. While touring the southern part of the state with sustainability group “Kanawha”, I was struck by the colors of the local streams – orange, red and brown, as if from a mud slide. The polluted water contained iron oxide, which was flowing freely from abandoned coal mines. I thought it would be fantastic to use this toxic flow to make paintings rather than with imported synthetic iron oxides. It turned out that environmental engineer and fellow Ohio University professor Guy Riefler had already been working to create viable paint from this toxic sludge; so we began collaborating."

    "To make the pigment, we intercept the AMD before it gets to the stream, take the water back to the lab, neutralize it with sodium hydroxide or another base, then bubble oxygen through the water, causing the iron oxide to crystalize and fall to the bottom. The clean water is then returned to the stream. The iron oxide is blended with oil, or acrylic polymers and resins to make paint, ranging in hues from yellow to brown to red to black. Different colors are achieved by firing the pigment at different temperatures – up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit – in a kiln at Ohio University’s ceramics studio.

    This is where Gamblin comes in. As a colorhouse that promises to be kind to artists and the environment, turning this pigment into paint was something we felt both compelled and honored to do. In 2018 we officially joined forces by making one full batch of paint with the reclaimed pigment. The process to collect the pigment worked, and an oil paint manufacturer was on board. The concept was no longer just an idea, it was a reality."

    Above: Gamblin Reclaimed Earth Colors


    John Sabraw was born in Lakenheath, England. An activist and environmentalist, Sabraw’s paintings, drawings and collaborative installations are produced in an eco conscious manner, and he continually works toward a fully sustainable practice. His art is in numerous collections including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Honolulu, the Elmhurst Museum in Illinois, Emprise Bank, and Accenture Corp. Sabraw is represented in Chicago by Thomas McCormick. Sabraw is a Professor of Art at Ohio University where he is Chair of the Painting + Drawing program, and Board Advisor at Scribble Art Workshop in New York. He has most recently been featured in TED, Smithsonian, New Scientist, and Great Big Story. He is currently included in the exhibition "Reclamation; Recovering our Relationship with Place" curated by Erika Osborne at the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO, and his solo show of new art work titled "Hydrophilic" opens October 7th at Qualia Contemporary Art in Palo Alto, CA.

    johnsabraw.com

    Above: John Sabraw/Photo: Ben Siegel

  • Saturday, August 21, 2021 5:02 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Lemonade berries are as sweet and sour as their name implies. All photos courtesy of Jimmy Fike

    Gaze on Ghostly Portraits of North America’s Wild Edibles

    From familiar flowers to unusual salad greens.

    by Anne Ewbank August 20, 2021

    Jimmy Fike is on his way to a campsite when I call him. “Jeez, a lady almost hit me. I’m driving,” he says offhandedly. But unlike most of us, if Fike’s car broke down or if he wandered a bit too far from his campsite, he could likely eat his way back to civilization.

    That’s because, for the last 13 years, Fike has been photographing North America’s edible flora. But instead of snapping pictures in the field, he carefully harvests the plants and takes them home to photograph. During the editing process, he only leaves a few splashes of color in the image to identify edible parts of the plant. With the plants pinned up like butterflies, the result is both vivid and somehow gruesome.

    But that’s the point. Fike often collages together stems and root systems to create perfect, archetypal versions of plants, then adjusts colors to make the plant appear to “pulsate and move.” Plants, he says, are “locked in the cycle of death and rebirth,” and the portraits are meant to mirror that line between life and oblivion.

    A mountain marsh marigold, photographed in Idaho, looks almost like a sea creature.

    It’s a very different type of landscape photography, which Fike maintains is his main style. Thirteen years ago, he says, he “hit a wall” and took up his current project. While he hopes to “help people become more ecologically and environmentally conscious,” he still considers his work more artistic than educational. “If you recognize one of those plants, then go outside the gallery and eat it, that’s art to me.”

    Continue reading on Gastro Obscura HERE


  • Wednesday, August 18, 2021 10:32 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)
    otes


    Torkwase Dyson, Ramond (Water Table), 2017. In this series and others, Dyson transforms geologic cartographic systems into abstractions of earth's interconnected layers, exploring how natural and human-devised borders and structures impact Black bodies and psyches.

    Ecological Art and Black Americans’ Relationships to the Land

    A Review Essay by Mary Jo Aagerstoun, PhD

    Hood, Walter, and Grace Mitchell Tada, eds. Black Landscapes Matter. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2020. 200 pages. Color and black and white illustrations. $35 (paperback)

    Taylor, Dorceta E. Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility. New York: New York University Press, 2014. 342 pages. $25.45 (paperback)

    Ruffin, Kimberly N. Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2010. 212 pages. Black and white illustrations. $22.95 (paperback)

    Deming, Alison H. and Lauret E. Savoy, eds. Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2002, revised 2011. 337 pages. $22.00 (paperback)

    Savoy, Lauret E. Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape. Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2015. 225 pages. $16.95 (paperback)


    I am considering these texts as research for a book I am writing and to help advance my anti-white-supremacy self-education. In my research so far, I have found few Black (1) artists who engage with environmental and climate disruption issues in established, fully ecological art ways. I wanted to understand why.

    Works by artists of any ethnic and racial background that fit within the currently established definitions of ecological art are few. The number of Black artists’ projects that address environmental crises in the ways described by this definition is also small. Fewer still meet my (evolving) criteria for inclusion in my book. There are barriers responsible for these small numbers. As in many other US political, economic, and cultural arenas, these barriers become more formidable for Black artists and other artists of color.

    There have been several definitions of ecological art over the movement’s several-decade history. The most recent states, in part, that the practice:

    ...seeks to preserve, remediate and/or vitalize the life forms, resources and ecology of Earth, by applying the principles of ecosystems to living species and their habitats throughout the lithosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere...involving functional ecological systems-restoration, as well as socially engaged, activist, community-based interventions.
    (2)

    My criteria (so far) for inclusion of projects in the book are not limited to this definition, but include other measures which are in active development and interrogation as I continue my research. The ones that will likely endure (3) will assess projects concerning whether they:

    --directly address the destructive effects of the Anthropocene;
    --counter baked-in “de-futuring” which design theorist Tony Fry identifies as a key characteristic of our anthropocentricity;
    --contribute to the “Great Turning” envisioned by Buddhist eco-philosopher and activist Joanna Macy;
    --“stay with the trouble” as scientist-philosopher Donna Haraway has urged in her book of that title;  
    --follow the directions suggested by the indigenous poet-scientist Robin Kimmerer in several texts, lectures and interviews; and
    --foster “flourishing”–a concept defined by ecofeminist philosopher Chris Cuomo.

    The works by African American artists I have considered closely to date include:

    --The philosophically dense abstractions and performances of Torkwase Dyson that address natural and human-devised above- and underground structures as well as lines and borders, exploring their relationships to constriction and freedom for the Black body and psyche in motion;
    --The lyrical, often dream-like landscape-based photo-narratives of Allison Janae Hamilton that encourage viewers to interrogate their reactions to Black people in nonurban, often “wild” settings;
    --The community-embeddedness of LaToya Ruby Frazier’s documentary photographic projects, especially her 2016 Flint Is Family, which offers portraits of Black resilience in toxic landscapes;
    --Pope.L.’s Flint Water project and his other recent works about water;
    --Seitu Jones’s currently in-process intervention ARTARK on the Mississippi River near his home in Minnesota, that is part of his ongoing focus on igniting community engagement with Black justice issues.  ARTARK seeks to connect Black communities in St. Paul with the Mississippi River they often only see when crossing a bridge;
     --Calida Rawles’ portrayals of  black bodies immersed in water that is both menacing and cradling;
    --Jordan Weber’s gardens that heal soil and Black youth; and
    --Walter Hood’s significant public art that seeks to return visibility and dignity back to landscapes long-neglected precisely because they were where Black people have lived and died. 

    The works of these Black artists have taught me that the priorities expressed in them are often in dialogue with the long history of Black community-engaging environmental justice activism dating back to Emancipation. They have helped me understand it will be necessary to reconsider how the established criteria and definitions of ecological art, as well as my intent to sharpen and expand them, will resonate differently with Black populations’ lived experiences. I needed help to do this.

    Enter the five books I will discuss here:


    The 2017 Hood and Tada anthology Black Landscapes Matter offers “notes from the field” by Walter Hood and other Black landscape architects and urban planners. Hood makes clear in the Introduction how significant and wide-ranging in kind and location are the Black landscapes explored by his contributors:

    Black landscapes matter because they . . . bear the detritus of diverse origins: from the plantation landscape of slavery, to freedman villages and new towns, to agrarian indentured servitude . . . northern and western migrations . . . [and to] segregated urban landscapes . . . [Their] constant erasure is a call to arms.    

    In Hood’s own public art and place-making work, design aesthetic and amelioration intent merge with memorial gesture. They honor and bring to visibility Black landscapes that have been consistently devalued and erased of all references to the histories of African American habitation and use. A recent example is Hood’s landscape design for the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, currently under construction at Gadsden’s Wharf. The location is stained by its connection to slavery.  For several years beginning in 1803, during a short hiatus in Congressional bans on the importation of Africans for enslavement, over forty thousand Africans were brought to the United States through Gadsden’s Wharf (4). Hood’s design seeks to elevate the infamous history of the site, transforming it into an opportunity to reflect upon and honor African American ancestors’ struggles, suffering, and contributions.

    Hood is committed to memorializing erased Black landscapes and reclaiming the Black “mundane.” Hood identifies this “mundane” as omnipresent objects in urban neighborhoods (like power boxes, light posts, street signs, curbs and gutters) that activates space in places important for generations of Black people. Hood’s projects are documented in twenty pages of color photographs, organized in sections labeled The Everyday and Mundane, Lifeways, and Commemoration.

    Beyond attention to Hood’s own work, the book offers points of view about specific Black landscapes across the United States, seeking to demonstrate their worth: that they “matter.” In prose both passionate and precise, Hood’s commentators reveal the pain, defeat, determination, and progress African American communities have experienced and instigated on rural land, in Black towns, in urban neighborhoods, and on historically Black college campuses. The book also details essential initiatives by Black planners and landscape architects in North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Detroit, the San Francisco Bay Area, Cleveland, Atlanta, and many more locations, marking the extent and depth of the Black Diaspora across diverse US landscapes and documenting efforts to bring them to visibility.

    In Hood’s anthology, and in the other texts discussed here, it becomes clear that the work of making Black landscapes matter to the American culture at large is never complete. The books describe how invisibility has too often overtaken brave, hard-won initiatives. The intent to honor the manifold experiences that inflect the spaces historically occupied by Black people has too often not been sustained, for many reasons. The invisibility that consistently overtakes these landscapes contributes to their ongoing devaluation and exploitation, and to the marginalization of the Black populations who have lived and are living on them.


    Dorceta E. Taylor’s (5) mammoth accomplishment, Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility documents this oscillation of Black landscapes from invisibility and erasure to vivid and instructive presence and back to invisibility again. Taylor, a sociologist and professor at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, offers readers an exhaustively researched, carefully categorized bibliographic essay of stunning force. 

    Written in terse and carefully chosen sociological language, the book’s presentation ranges widely—and tellingly—over tough questions: Why are people of color predominant in polluted, health-risky places? Who can leave such places, and why do so many Blacks and other minority groups stay in such situations? Which came first to these sites, pollution or people of color? Is it a coincidence that dirty and dangerous work is so often located in or near communities of color?

    Taylor offers decades of research on Black communities that continue to be affected by toxic industrial processes and waste. We see that courageous activism has at times successfully daylighted toxicity and its effects and even spawned some cleanup activity. However, these successes are too often momentary. Taylor’s narrative describes many positive moments as well as the too-frequent subsequent re-toxification and reemergence of declining health and economic woe.

    A 2015 review of Taylor’s book in the Natural Resources Journal concludes that:

    Toxic Communities is packed with valuable information that will appeal to professional lawyers, sociologists, political scientists, activists, community organizers, and others with a direct interest in environment and social justice. By focusing on facts, however, the stories of real people are at times lost. Much of the book may be difficult and less engaging for environmental justice novices. Those with a professional interest in the field, however, will likely embrace this book as a valuable resource, akin to an encyclopedia of environmental justice research. (6)

    Kimberly N. Ruffin’s Black on Earth: African American Ecoliterary Traditions explicates first-person accounts, fiction, and poetry providing the real-people stories missing in Taylor’s book. Ruffin’s strong argument is that the varied examples of Black eco-literature she has selected to analyze, ranging from enslavement to the current climate crises, demonstrate African Americans’ longstanding ambivalence toward land and nature.

    Ruffin contends that land has been experienced by Black people in the United States as both burden and beauty. She argues that the burden experience has resulted in the marginalization of Black people in relation to the environmental movement’s call to responsible action. She asserts that marginalized Black people are unlikely to address the damaged land and rapidly deteriorating biodiversity of areas beyond the places they inhabit because they “will have little interest in ecological duties and responsibilities if flaws in human ethics continue to go unaddressed.”

    Ruffin suggests that art interventions, like the eco-literature in her book, can be a bridge to an expanded human and land ethic, “set[ting] the stage for the ecological righting that needs to take place if the human race is to survive.” She argues that for Black people to become involved ecological citizens will require “difficult, indeed burdensome, discussions and decisions, [but] it also gives us a reason for egalitarian celebrations of our ecological embeddedness.” She calls for many ways to engage and activate community to this end. She asserts that confrontation will be necessary, but this must be joined by enjoyment and celebration. We must embrace both burden and beauty.

    Ruffin begins and ends her book with references to trees, emblems of her book’s theme of burden and beauty. In the opening paragraph, Ruffin notes: “For as long as Africans have been Americans, they have had no entitlement to speak for or about nature. Even in the twenty-first century, standing next to a tree has been difficult.” She follows this statement by describing a 2006 so-called “white tree” event on a high school campus in Jena, Louisiana. The tree had been a gathering place for white students. It was generally understood that Black students were not welcome to sit in the tree’s shade.

    When it became known that a Black student had asked permission from the school’s administration to sit under the tree, nooses appeared hanging from its branches. After a group of Black students beat a white student in the aftermath of the noose incident, five of the Black students involved were arrested and charged with attempted murder A mass demonstration ensued, protesting the charges.

    The school’s solution was to fell the tree. Ruffin argues that this decision was a “missed opportunity to make a once ‘white’ tree part of a new complex historical narrative, sophisticated enough to acknowledge an unjust past and to set the stage for a more just future.”

    At the end of the book, Ruffin returns to a tree, this time to an ancient oak conjured as metaphor by Black New Orleanian writer and Xavier University professor Ahmos Zu-Bolton II. The poet offers readers an opportunity to “sit under a figurative ‘black tree’” as the poem’s granny interlocutor speaks. Her ownership of the land that supports the tree represents her family’s resilience and belonging and the persistence of the life force streaming through the African American experience of burden and beauty:

    [. . . the tree] was born during slavery times
    but
    it’s free now
    And as long as it’s standing on
    my land, it can shake its leaves
    and spread its wings
    anyway it damn well please . . .

    Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World (2002, revised 2011) could be a companion to Ruffin’s detailed explication of the history of Black eco-literary production since slavery, though Colors appeared over a decade earlier. Colors is an anthology edited by Euro-American poet Allison H. Deming, professor of English at the University of Arizona, and Lauret E. Savoy, professor of environmental studies and geology at Mount Holyoke College who self-identifies as of mixed heritage: African American, Native American, and Euro-American. Many of the entries were commissioned from eminent authors of color specifically for this book; none of the entries was pulled from deep history as were some of the pieces included in Ruffin’s text.

    Colors’ editors say their book was instigated by a troubling, recurring question: “Why is there so little recognized ‘nature writing’ by people of color?” They argue that the question requires interrogation because the definition of nature writing has been limited for more than a century to European or Euro-American explorations of nature as “wilderness.” It is past time, they say, to consider seriously those writings that address the far more diverse nature people of color have inhabited: rural and urban, “indigenous, indentured, exiled, (im)migrant, [and/or] toxic.”

    Deming and Savoy’s selections were not written exclusively by the descendants of enslaved Africans; one-third of the entries are by African American writers. Readers are offered several dozen recent poems, essays, reports, and short fiction by American authors of a range of racial and ethnic backgrounds who, in the editors’ words, “creatively present how identity and place, human history and ‘natural’ history, power and silence, social injustice and environmental degradation are fundamentally linked.”

    All five books I consider in this essay address the themes of silence and invisibility. And, for the books’ authors, silence is not golden. As Colors co-editor Lauret Savoy notes in her afterword: “silence and denial have kept too many Americans from knowing who ‘we the people’ really are.” She expresses the hope that Colors can help “bring into dialogue what has been ignored or silenced, what has been disconnected or dismembered.”


    Savoy’s memoir, Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape, extends Colors’ purpose of bringing what has been ignored or avoided into dialogue. Savoy explores the dismemberments and disconnections of her own family history, poetically entangling them with the geological and human history-inflected landscapes in which her family’s complex relationships, histories, dramas, and denials have been enacted over extended periods.

    Savoy is a professional geologist, so her text offers insights that are both scientifically based and poetically expressed. Through skillful blendings, Savoy conjures how Earth’s layered histories in rock and soil merge with the dramatic, often tragic, human events enacted over long time on a variety of landscapes inhabited and traversed by Savoy’s family. She helps us, as she is helping herself, see clearly the connections and relevance these landscapes have to her excavations of the puzzling silences and voids in her own mixed-heritage family history.

    In one section of the book, Savoy describes eventful weeks she spent examining the deeply historied environs of Fort Huachuca in Arizona, fifteen miles from the US-Mexico border (7). Her mother, an Army nurse, had been stationed there at the end of World War II. Her mother did not understand what motivated her daughter’s wish to experience the landscape first hand:

    “Why do you want to go there?” I couldn’t answer my mother’s question when she was alive [but . . .] my reasons . . . became far-reaching. [I found a place where] frontiers collided, where consequences still unfold . . . Gloria Anzaldua called a borderland “a vague and undermined place created by the emotional residue of the unnatural boundary . . . in a constant state of transition [where] the prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants.”

    Savoy intended to visit the fort to know if experiencing its physical location, together with her excavation of the region’s human histories, could tell her more about her mother. Her initial intent was to learn when, how, and why African Americans came to this remote Arizona desert location. What she learned was far deeper, spanning centuries:

    So many dividing lines have criss crossed this valley . . . [While] visitors to the . . . Aravaipa Canyon can believe they’re hiking in pristine nature, they [probably do not know anything] of the landscape’s tragic unnatural history and burden of violence.

    She continues, describing examples of violence enacted in this landscape over many years, as in this passage:

    Over a century ago, an American entrepreneur owned copper mines at the San Pedro’s headwaters in Cananea, Sonora [Mexico]. A strike there helped kindle the Mexican Revolution. Today, Cananea hosts one of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world, owned and operated by a corporation in which American interests are key.

    The landscape’s relationship to colonial occupation and contemporary extraction, the fort’s often unsavory military activities for more than a century, and the impact these uses had on land and indigenous people come together in another poignant passage. Savoy recalls a moment when, while caressing an old photograph of her mother in uniform, suddenly time and the excavated histories that informed her visits to the Arizona borderland seem to collapse:

    Vivian Reeves is fully alive in the shutter-clicked moment . . . Touching this image I try to imagine innumerable present moments in this borderland. An afternoon like this day, but in 1542, In April 1871. April 1945. Tomorrow.

    At the end of her book, Savoy considers the meaning of her title:

    [Trace is] active search. Path taken. Track or vestige of what once was. Both life marks and home. From twisted terrain within the San Andreas Fault to “indian territory,” from Point Sublime to burial grounds, from a South Carolina plantation to the US Mexico border and the US Capital. Their confluence . . . helps me both join together and give clearer expression to the unvoiced past in my life . . . Home indeed lies among the ruins and shards that surround us all.

    -----

    The Black artists I have investigated so far engage across some (but not all) of the characteristics of ecological art practice. Their works express priorities, including keeping vibrantly visible the specific issues Black people have faced in the many  “natures” where they have lived. These five books have guided me during this phase of my active search, my path taken toward deeper understanding. I am, as a result, more aware than ever that my book research is far from complete and must be ongoing.

    Studying these books has encouraged me to interrogate how the barriers to ecological art practice may affect Black artists differently. Their personal accounts, works of imagination, and research have enlightened me about African Americans’ fraught experience with the American landscape, inhabited and wild. They have helped me understand why it may be that Black artists’ projects that address environmental issues emphasize certain aspects of ecological art practice and not others.

    Dr. Kimberly Ruffin warns that difficult, burdensome discussions and decisions will be necessary before Blacks will engage fully with ecological citizenship. These discussions and decisions will be necessary bridges across profound chasms that separate Americans from each other and prevent serious attention both to our relationships to the land and all those—human and more-than-human—who co-inhabit it.

    That I have failed so far to find African American artists whose projects fit neatly into existing--or proposed-- definitions of ecological art may mean that, like the long-standing definition of nature writing critiqued by Deming and Savoy, the definition of ecological art must be reinterpreted and transformed. It also means that how Black artists’ works relate to the land—and to the experience of burden and beauty so many generations of Black people have experienced on it—will require much more specific attention from curators and art historians, Black and otherwise.  


    These five books offer significant insights by African American writers, researchers, and activists about Black connection to and alienation from the land. These authors demonstrate how to recognize and reveal the environmental injustices baked into the economic and political system in which we live. They also model the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the many times these injustices have been righted, if only partially and temporarily, and always because of the care and activism of the Black community members most directly affected.

    I am grateful to these eloquent and knowledgeable Black writers and researchers and to African American artists’ pioneering engagement with environmental issues on their terms and with their priorities. I have benefited immensely from their expertise, wisdom, and creative imagination. Now it is up to me to work productively with all this, in my own life and practice, and in the book I am currently writing and beyond.


    Mary Jo Aagerstoun, PhD, (she, her) is an environmental activist and art historian living in West Palm Beach, Florida, on land of the Jeaga people (8) where Jim Crow-defined Black landscapes persist with little public acknowledgment of their meanings. (9) She founded EcoArt South Florida (2007-2014), a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to expanding ecological art practice in South Florida, and Artists for Climate Action (2015-present), an international platform on Facebook for artists interested in bringing their skills and imagination into action on climate disruption and crises. She is currently working on a book featuring a selection of ecological art projects that contribute to “The Great Turning” by modeling how to “stay with the trouble” and foster flourishing in damaged landscapes, current and future.


    NOTES

    1. When I refer to Black artists whose  works I am researching for inclusion in my book, I mean artists of full or partial African heritage who are American citizens and live predominantly in the United States of America. Occasionally I will use the term “African American” as well. I have not investigated the ecological art practice of African artists nor of artists of the African Diaspora elsewhere.
     

    2. There have been several definitions of ecological art over its multi-decade history. This is the most recent. It was crafted in the early 2010s by members of the EcoArt Network, an international, invitational network of ecological artists; environmental scientists who work with these artists; curators and writers who write about the movement, etc. See full definition at: Ecological art. The network’s website is: https://www.ecoartnetwork.org

    3. Tony Fry. Defuturing: A New Design Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2020; see https://davidkorten.org/great-turning/origin-of-the-term/ for origin of Macy’s Great Turning concept; Donna Haraway. Staying with the Trouble. Experimental Futures. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.; Robin Kimmerer. Braiding Sweetgrass. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Milkweed Editions, 2013; Chris Cuomo. Feminism and Ecological Communities: An Ethic of Flourishing. London: Routledge, 1998. 

    4. See https://greenbookofsc.com/locations/gadsdens-wharf/. Downloaded 6/29/2021.

    5. Taylor is one of the pioneering giants of the Environmental Justice Movement. Her work follows in the path of another famous environmental justice pioneer, sociologist Robert Bullard, (see Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality (Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 1990 a landmark publication which reviewed the environmental justice struggles of several African American communities); the stories underscored the importance of race as a factor in the siting of unwanted toxins-producing facilities. In 1991, at the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., Taylor was key in developing the "Principles of Environmental Justice," a seventeen-point document that has guided the movement’s vision and actions for nearly thirty years. She is on the faculty at the University of Michigan.

    6. Book review: Alan Barton, “Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta E. Taylor,” Nat. Resources Journal 55 (2015): 236. https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nrj/vol55/iss1/12. Downloaded 6/10/2021.

    7.  Among its many uses, Fort Huachuca had from 1913 to 1933 served as the base for the African American “buffalo soldiers.” It was also the first Army base to be commanded by an African American general. 

    8. Regarding the Jeaga people, of whom there has been found no trace for two hundred years in what is now known as Palm Beach County, Florida, see: https://www.westpalmbeach.com/the-jeaga-palm-beach-countys-indigenous-tribe/.

     9. The Palm Beach County History website begins its history of African Americans in the area now known as West Palm Beach with the 1929 ordinance that made “official the blacks-only section of the city that had been ‘generally in force under an agreement of many years’ standing.’” See http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/african-american-settlement-patterns. For an authoritative history of Blacks in the area now known as Florida, see: David R. Colburn and Jane Landers, eds., The African American Heritage of Florida (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, reissued 2017). https://ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00061985/00001 PDF downloaded 7/5/2021.



  • Monday, August 16, 2021 9:40 AM | Callie Smith (Administrator)

    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    AUGUST 16, 2021

    This week we recognize the work of artist Mimi Graminski.

    "The majority of materials in these works are inspired by and derived from plant-based sources, all of which stem from the process of photosynthesis – creating energy, nourishment and growth from light. In my work I am using materials that were all born from this process - logs from trees, (drawings of) leaves from plants, and paper made from cotton and rice. After their growth process and harvest, the materials find renewed life in their cross pollination incorporated into these site-specific installations.”


    "During these past spring and summer months at home I have found myself drawn to the forests, and with my interest in materials, I have found a huge resource in the natural environment. In my study of leaves (found and cultivated) I have been examining light, shadow and color by using pencil, watercolor and video. I celebrate the differences and commonalities that the leaves all share."


    Above is an image from Graminski's installation Post Photosynthesis at Window on Hudson in Hudson, New York.

    "Trees felled in a storm gave me an abundance of raw material. I use the cut logs and combine them with cotton lace, collected from many sources, to create an installation that honors both the trees and the lace makers. I pay tribute to the lace makers, their labor and the energy they imbued into each stitch. I wonder about their lives and under what circumstances did they create this work? Was it a labor of love or necessity? Their lace has outlived them just as the logs will outlast the intricate stenciled patterns on them. I honor the fleeting and enduring quality of both women's labor and the natural environment."

    Pictured above is a work from Graminski's series Angle of Repose; Dawn to Dusk. In this series, the artist begins with locust trees, which were felled due to old age. She places the 12 foot logs so that from a distance, they appear to be randomly stacked, but are carefully balanced upon each other so the ends face east and west. Upon closer inspection they present an unexpected surprise as their cut ends are covered in gold leaf and crocheted wire which are alternately illuminated by the rising and setting sun.


    Mimi Czajka Graminski is a multi-disciplinary artist working in a variety of media - sculpture, installation, drawing, painting, photography and video. Her work is wide-ranging, and is consistently based in the exploration of materials, light, and color. Most recently, she has exhibited at Smallbany Gallery in Albany, New York, at Window on Hudson in Hudson, New York, and will participate in the 2021-2022 Fresh Winds International Art Biennale Residency in Iceland.  mimigraminski.com


    Featured Images: ©Mimi GraminskiPost Photosynthesis, Outdoor Interventions, and Angle of Repose; Dawn to Dusk

    Above: Mimi Graminski/Photo: Eleanor Zelek

  • Wednesday, August 11, 2021 8:52 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    It is with great sadness we share that pioneering ecological artist Bonnie Ora Sherk passed away on Sunday, August 8, 2021, in San Francisco, California (USA). Sherk will be laid to rest on Wednesday, August 11 at Noon at the Mendocino Jewish Cemetery, near where her parents are buried.

    Bonnie Ora Sherk         was an American landscape planner, educator and international artist, and founder of Crossroads Community, known as The Farm, and A Living Library. She’s well-known for her environmental performance work in the early 1970s, including Public Lunch, where Sherk ate her lunch in a cage next to tiger and lion cages in the Lion House of the San Francisco Zoo. The performance took place on a Saturday at 2pm, during normal feeding time and prime spectator attendance, highlighting a human being fed and watched like the other animals.


    Public Lunch (1971). San Francisco Zoo Lion House. © 1971 Bonnie Ora Sherk.

    In 2012, Patricia Watts conducted a two-hour interview with Bonnie Ora Sherk for the ecoartspace archive. Excerpts from the interview are located on our website under Exhibits, Performative Ecologies, an exhibition curated by Watts in 2020, including Public Lunch at 826 Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Watts additionally interviewed Sherk with SITE Santa Fe last summer for their My Life in Art series here.

    Former ecoartspace curator Amy Lipton too worked with Sherk, including documentation of her Roosevelt Island Living Library & Think Park in FOODshed: Art and Agriculture in Action at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, New York, in 2014. 

    The artist coined the term Funcshuional Art in 2003 to describe a new genre of art that combines the functionalism of the west with the sensitivity toward ecological alignment, natural systems and spirituality of the East. Her goal was that this concept would embrace the diversity of cultures from all directions. 

    Bonnie Ora Sherk's early groundbreaking performative work and fifty-year career focused on ecological issues with The Farm and A Living Library have been incredibly inspirational.

    She will be missed and remembered. 

    Her Instagram account is a_livinglibrary.

    Sitting Still I (1970). Army Street/101 Freeway Interchange Construction Zone, San Francisco. © Bonnie Ora Sherk.

  • Monday, August 09, 2021 9:39 AM | Callie Smith (Administrator)


    MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

    AUGUST 9, 2021

    This week we recognize the work of artist Jenny Kendler.

    Featured is her project Amber Archive, utilizing created amber and ethically-sourced biological material from species threatened by human activities.

    The Amber Archive is an in-progress project — a genetic ark or "deep archive" of our planet's bio-genetic wealth.

    Each created amber nodule contains a fragment of a species threatened by humankind’s transformation of Earth’s ecosystems, preserving a single species's DNA for millennia to come.

    Fur, scale, leaf, bone, feather, insect wing — each carries a genetic code which might be used by scientists at the appropriate time — in some far future when habitats and resources are available for de-extinction of potentially lost species.

    The Archive is a biodiversity time capsule for a world generations hence, and a potent reminder to us today of what we stand to lose in the Sixth Extinction.


    Though a number of fantastic cryobanks at research institutions exist with similar goals, their high tech deep freezers rely on large amounts of electricity. Were a climate event, pandemic or major conflict to disrupt the electrical grid for a long period of time, these DNA samples would be irrevocably lost.

    The Amber Archive seeks a more analog and more ancient method of preservation — one that could survive the potential collapse of Western Civilization and carry these genetic treasures into the far future where there may be a culture willing to, once again, make space on our planet for these marvelous others.

    Jenny Kendler is an interdisciplinary artist, environmental activist, naturalist and wild forager who lives in Chicago and various forests. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2006) and a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (2002, summa cum laude). Kendler is a co-founder of the artist website platform OtherPeoplesPixels, and created the OPPfund, which gives grants to arts, environmental and social justice organizations, and awards the MAKER Grant each year to two socially or environmentally engaged artists in partnership with Chicago Artists' Coalition. Kendler was also named one of Chicago's Top 50 Artists by Newcity in their biennial list in 2018 and 2020. 

    jennykendler.com

    Featured Images: ©Jenny Kendler, Amber Archive, 2018-2021

    Above: Jenny Kendler/Photo: Nathan Keay for Newcity's "Chicago's Top 50 Artists," 2020

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