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 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
  • Monday, November 28, 2022 9:49 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    November 28, 2022

    This week we recognize  Perdita Phillips, based in Australia, and her thirty plus year practice of imagining environmental futures.

    Cyanotypes (above) are an early photographic technique invented by astronomer Sir John Herschel in 1842. Paper is sensitized and then exposed to sunlight to turn uncovered areas of the image blue. In Phillips' work Natura Autem Vivit, Sed Occisio de Felibus, natural materials including bones have been combined with hand-drawn stencils. 10% of endemic Australian land mammal fauna are extinction and 21% of the 273 species are now threatened. Quendas (top and bottom right, above) were once found throughout the southwest of Australia. But, unlike many other local marsupials, they still survive in pockets in the urban areas of Perth. Nature is alive, but [for] the killing of cats. click images for more info

    "Anticipatory terrain (above) is about dreams and nightmares and the night landscape as a place of uncertainty and potential. The video installation contains footage from Perth’s urban wetlands, plotting the shadowy traces of Western Grey Kangaroos, which may or may not inhabit various locations. It sprang from a re-envisaging of Goya’s El sueño de la razón produce monstruos (The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters) where the positions of dreamer and dreams might be reversed and how, along with an ethical commitment to let animals exist in their own worlds, one should also recognise how other animals are essential to our own (entangled) being. Do landscapes, themselves, dream? That is a much harder question to answer, but even posing the question alerts us to the possibility of not the singular dream of twentieth-century modernist development, but of dreams as multiple, open-ended assemblages. And thus “we might look around to notice this strange new world, and we might stretch our imaginations to grasp its contours” (Tsing, 2015, p. 3)."

    Artistic practices and ecoaesthetics in post-sustainable worlds is a chapter written by Phillips (above), included in the book, An introduction to sustainability and aesthetics: The arts and design for the environment (2015). This chapter considers the question of sustainability and aesthetics from the perspective of an artist’s critical reflection on contemporary environmental art practice. It adopts a specifically concretionary approach, examining the way concepts from different disciplines might be able to generate creative and speculative aesthetic possibilities. It considers scientific ecology alongside allusionsto Guattari’s (2000) ‘three ecologies’. It argues that art and aesthetics has a role in ‘unsolidifying’ sustainability. Through reference to a practice-based example, it concludes with a call for an aesthetics of action in the face of the inevitable uncertainties inherent in an ecological worldview.

    Wattie (below) is a short video meditation included in Embodied Forest, in 2021, that shows crown shyness as each tree weaves its own space facing the sun. Wattie (Taxandria juniperina) are thin spindly trees that live in watery landscapes, in single age stands at Tjuirtgellong (Lake Seppings) in Albany/ Kinjarling, a rural city in Western Australia on Menang Noongar Boodja. They use their strength in numbers to deflect southerly storms. Once extensive, the Wattie thickets were sponge landscapes that sucked up water over winter and let it slowly seep out over the dry summers of a Mediterranean climate. Phillips writes, "sensing soundscapes is an embodied practice of attunement that can decentre settler cultures."

    We Must Catch Up, 2017/2019 (below) was a performance/ installation that ran 9:30am – 5pm daily, for one week at Paper Mountain in Northbridge, Western Australia. "In confusing and compromising times, we must take action despite being surrounded by doubt. We Must Catch Up explores the point of talking through doubt and progressing towards action. In this interactive exhibition, participants experienced a time of reflection in a world that needs thinkers and people who absorb and react to the mad auratic flows that surround us." Meanwhile, other gallery visitors were able to observe or overhear conversations of warmth and positive exchange. Later, the mountain was rebuilt at The Farm, Margaret River, 2019, allows visitors time to catch up surrounded by paddocks and peppermint (Wanil) trees on the land of the Wadandi People in the South West Boojarah region.

    Perdita Phillips    is an interdisciplinary artist born and raised on unceded Whadjuk Nyoongar Boodja. After years of wrestling with the ideas of beauty and wildness, Phillips decided that things are not simple: they are complex and contested and worth fighting for. This is what she calls the both/and condition: how to live in an impure and compromised world. Perdy has employed many different media including walking, mapping, ephemeral outdoor works/ situations (eclogues), photographs/video and spatial sound. Her work is marked by a continuing interest in the relationships between humans and nonhuman others (rocks, plants, animals, ecosystem processes). Beginning in 1992, Phillips’ commitment to ‘ecosystemic thinking’ has led her to work with material and conceptual networks as diverse as drains, minerals, termites and bowerbirds. Originally training in environmental science, she completed a MA at Goldsmiths College 1997-1999. Phillips’ practice-based PhD (2003-2006) fieldwork/fieldwalking was recognized as top three annual abstracts in the Leonardo Abstracts Service Database. She has received two Inter Arts Grants from the Australia Council and has contributed to many interdisciplinary forums. Phillips has recently contributed to, and edited,  Tectonics: bringing together artistic practices united by lithic thinking beyond human scales (2021, Lethologica Press), the both/and issue of CSPA Quarterly (issue 36, 2022) and Swamphen: A Journal of Cultural Ecology issue 8 on Particular Planetary Aesthetics (2022, co-edited). Other published books include Fossil III (2019, as part of the Lost Rocks project). Current art projects revolve around geological time, extractivism and contemporary colonial unforgetting.

    Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Perdita Phillips, Natura Autem Vivit, Sed Occisio de Felibus, 2019, cyanotype print, City of Joondalup, Invitational Art Prize, Western Australia; Anticipatory terrain (capricious dreams), 2017, video installation; Artistic Practices and Ecoaesthetics in Post-sustainable Worlds, chapter in Crouch, C. Kaye, N and Crouch, J. An introduction to sustainability and aesthetics: The arts and design for the environment (55-68) Boca Raton, Florida: Brown Walker Press; Wattie, 2018, looped video, Wattie (Taxandria juniperina) at Tjurltgellong (Lake Seppings), Kinjarling/Albany, on the lands of the Menang people, Western Australia, included in Embodied Forest 2021; We Must Catch Up, 2017/2019, performance/ installation at Paper Mountain and The Farm, Western Australia (photo Christopher Young); Perdita Phillips at the Flow walkshop 2021, listening to swamp water by Jane Finlay (below). 

  • Monday, November 21, 2022 10:30 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    November 21, 2022

    This week we recognize    Kim Abeles, based in Los Angeles, and her thirty plus year practice addressing ecological issues.

    "I created the first Smog Collector in 1987 while working on artworks about the "invisible" San Gabriel Mountains, obscured by the smog as I looked from my studio fire escape in downtown Los Angeles. In the 1980s it was common to hear people insist that it was fog, not smog, that filled the air. The Smog Collectors are presented in several series, including the Presidential Commemorative Smog Plates, all the presidents from McKinley to Bush with their portraits in smog and their quotes about the environment or industry hand-painted in gold around the rims. I left them out on the roof longer, depending on their environmental records." click images for more info

    In 1995, using trash picked up from Los Angeles beaches, Abeles created a sculpture depicting a dolphin, which was designed to tour schools to help children understand the effects of throwing trash into storm drains. Entitled Run-off Dolphin Suitcase, the portable sculpture put the ethic of pollution prevention, and the value of preventing ocean pollution into vividly concrete terms. The familiarity of garbage run-off art stimulates an assessment of one's own complicity and how to prevent future "run-off" pollution in the ocean and, by implication, to protect all of our natural environment.

    Women and Water (above) was originally created for the exhibition, (re-) cycles of Paradise in 2012, curated by ARTPORT_making waves, and first exhibited at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) in cooperation with swissnex San Francisco. The embedded videos are presented in pairs with the first in real time and for the second, one minute of footage is slowed to 6 hours. In some parts of the world, women spend as much as six hours a day carrying water to their communities. The journey's length for these courageous women to carry the heavy water containers is depicted in this artwork.

    Cabinet of Wondering (below) brings together a wall covered with a large photograph of objects that I have collected over many years. Embedded in the wall are video monitors and cases for specimens on loan from the Natural History Museum of the University of Florida. Cabinet of Wondering expresses the urge to separate objects from their surroundings, and then bring them together on a shelf, in the box, in our imagination. Throughout human history, people have collected objects—specimens, spiritual talismans, souvenir pencils, family remembrances—in an effort to possess, reaffirm their existence, and to connect with the “natural world.”

    "Citizen Seeds (below) is a series of six sculptures placed in various locations along three miles at the start of the Park to Playa trail. The sculptures are mixed media and portray six plants native to Southern California: Sugar Pine, California Black Oak, Coast Live Oak, Bladderpod, Black Walnut, and Manzanita. Abeles designed the seeds to have a visual presence from afar (sizes range from 6’ to 8’) and serve as a meeting place for trail users. The top of each seed appears to be split open, revealing a map and other design elements. Each map is fashioned in bronze, indicates its location on the trail, and includes the word “Here”. The sculptures then become wayfinding objects." Alicia Vogl Saenz for ecoartspace blog, April 21, 2022.

                 Kim Abeles is an artist whose artworks explore biography, geography, feminism, and the environment. Her work speaks to society, science literacy, and civic engagement, creating projects with the California Science Center, health clinics and mental health departments, and the National Park Service. Her collaborations with air pollution control agencies involve images from the smog, and largescale projects with natural history museums in California, Colorado and Florida incorporate specimens ranging from lichen to nudibranchs. In 1987, she innovated a method to create images from the smog in the air, and Smog Collectors brought her work to national and international attention. National Endowment for the Arts funded two recent projects: as artist-in-residence at the Institute of Forest Genetics she focused on Resilience; and, Valises for Camp Ground: Arts, Corrections, and Fire Management in the Santa Monica Mountains were made in collaboration with Camp 13, a group of female prison inmates stationed in the Santa Monica Mountains who fight wildfires. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust Fund for the Visual Arts, California Community Foundation and Pollack-Krasner Foundation. Her work is in forty public collections including MOCA, LACMA, Berkeley Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum, California African American Museum, and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Abeles’ process documents are archived at the Center for Art + Environment, Nevada Museum of Art.

    Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Kim Abeles     Presidential Commemorative Smog Plates, 1992, smog (particulate matter) on porcelain plates; Run-off Dolphin Suitcase, 1995, beach trash/storm drain run-off, welded steel, satin, mixed media, 16 x 64 x 22 inches, Courtesy Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego; Women and Water, 2017(2012-ongoing), terəˈf3:mə, Orange Coast College, California. Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker; Cabinet of Wondering, 2014-2015, Technology & the Natural World,  Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida; Citizen Seed, 2022, California State and Los Angeles County Parks, Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles, California. Commissioned by LA County Arts and Culture;  Portrait of the artist by Joyce Kim for The New York Times, December 9, 2021.

  • Friday, November 18, 2022 10:04 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Paul Jackson, "In the First Times," 2022. Image courtesy of The Doyle.

    GALLERY ROUNDS: Spirit of the Land

    The Doyle, Artillery magazine, Los Angeles

    by Jennie E. Park | Nov 16, 2022

    “Spirit of the Land: Artists Honor Avi Kwa Ame” fortifies the work of activists—including the show’s curators, Checko Salgado, Kim Garrison Means and Mikayla Whitmore—who catalyzed the introduction of a congressional bill this year that would designate Avi Kwa Ame (Mojave for “Spirit Mountain”) and its surrounding 443,671 acres of public lands in Southern Nevada a national monument. Without such designation the region, considered sacred by over a dozen local tribes, could be irreversibly harmed by tourists, mining and industrial “green” (wind and solar) energy activities; with the designation, tribes and other local communities would be meaningfully consulted in land use proposals.

    Through allied modes of storytelling, this evolving traveling exhibition reflects the coalition strategy of the advocacy efforts it supports. Participating storytellers include artists, scientists, tribal elders, members of increasingly varied communities and nature itself; the voices and works highlighted in a given iteration reflect its venue and local community. Having germinated earlier this year at community spaces in Nevada, the show reaches a national register through The Doyle, where visitors are invited to recognize that imperiled land and ecosystems around Avi Kwa Ame (forty miles of which border Southern California) parallel similarly imperiled regions nationwide.

    Continue reading here

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2022 8:07 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    This Artist Uses Trees and Maps to Imagine a Colorado with No Drought

    Meredith Nemirov makes topography beautiful

    published by Orion Magazine, Autumn 2022

    MEREDITH NEMIROV HAS SPENT THE last 30 years walking in the forests of southwest Colorado.

    While mainly an observational painter, Meredith’s experience of spending time drawing and painting among aspen trees led her to intense visual explorations of naturally occurring phenomena, reflected in her series Blowdown, which abstractly depicts the mycorrhizal fungi growing beneath the forest floor. Most recently, her series Rivers Feed the Trees uses old topographical maps of Colorado, where she paints the color blue into all the canyons, arroyos, and dry washes to create an abundance of rivers and streams.

    Meredith plays with perspective. She transforms topographic maps–aerial views of our landscape–into both the grounds the trees are planted in and the sky that frames them as they grow vertically. We love what this suggests about the different relationships and connections found in nature,” says a curator from the gallery in Telluride that represents her work.

    This visual representation is meant to be akin to an Indigenous rain dance ceremony, a weather-modification ritual that attempts to invoke rain.

    Through these works the artist hopes to bring attention to processes occurring in the natural world.

    Read full article here

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2022 7:54 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    ‘Gold Rush’ Documents the Social and Ecological Impact of Mining on Indigenous Lands

    Stephanie Garon uses mine core samples to guide the creation of sculpture, video, sound and photography.

    Published by BmoreArt, November 14, 2022

    by Caroline Cliona Boyle

    Thirty minutes from the Canadian border, an organic farm in Pembroke, Maine, harvests blueberries, cranberries, and mushrooms from its orchards. The Smithereen Farm cultivates the land, but it also works to replenish its acres to preserve natural ecosystems. Underneath this biodiverse landscape, the cellar of the Smithereen farmhouse stores 20,000 core samples, cylindrical mineral extractions used by miners to assess the presence of precious metals. 

    “I will never, ever forget the first time I went down there,” recounts artist Stephanie Garon. “It was flickering lights, a deep stairwell, [and] leaking, seeping water coming in.” The core samples stored at Smithereen Farm date as far back as the 19th century, when Pembroke became a prominent mining center. Located two miles away from the farmhouse, a mine known to locals as “Big Hill” represents both the remnants, and active pursuits, of prospectors’ attempts to acquire natural resources.

    Garon is an environmental artist whose paintings, sculptures, and installations explore humanity’s complex relationship with nature. Her new solo exhibition, Gold Rush, uses materials previously extracted from Big Hill to examine the ecological, cultural, and social implications of mining land that Indigenous tribes, including the Passamaquoddy, have inhabited for more than 12,000 years

    Throughout her career, Garon has experimented with organic materials, often treading the line between art and environmental science. “Being immersed in nature, and being surrounded by metal, were my earliest forms of language,” she says over a Zoom preview tour of the exhibition. The artist is a fellow of Hamiltonian Artists, a nonprofit that advocates for accessibility within the contemporary art community. The organization operates out of Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington, DC where Gold Rush is displayed.

    Continue reading here

  • Monday, November 14, 2022 11:00 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)


    November 14, 2022

    This week we recognize   Nancy Azara, and her fifty plus year practice as an ecofeminist artist working primarily with trees.

    "I make collages, prints, banners, and carved and painted sculptures that record a journey of ideas and memories around the unseen and the unknown, reflecting on time and mortality through facets of my personal history. I juxtapose real tree limbs and vines with arboreal imagery—including renderings of witch hazel and rhubarb leaves—using them as stand-ins for my own presence, and as expressions of the dogged persistence of life." click images for more info

    "For several decades I have been making sculpture, carving pieces of wood that are logs or milled lumber, ranging in size from 1 foot to 12 feet or more. The work is often gilded with metal leaf, painted with tempera, encaustic, and oils, stained and sometimes burned or bleached. These formal properties are the psychic outer layer. Within the psychic inner layer is the voice of my heart and what resides within it. The wood, the paint, and layers that make up the sculpture record a journey of memory, images, and ideas." Nancy Azara, Brooklyn Museum, Feminist Art Base

    "Conflating natural form and religious iconography, Azara’s aesthetic language is at once universal, highly personal, and deeply resonant. Gleaning from the simplicity of nature’s gifts, she creates experiential encounters for her viewers while expressing her feminist ethos through symbols of creativity, wishes, and prayers—or votives. Through her work, she illuminates a deep sense of what connects us all, our inescapable awareness that we are nature." Excerpt from feature essay by Patricia Watts for the monograph, Votives, published in 2022.

     "When I think about the things that have formed my sense of self as an artist, I always return to those lessons from my grandfather’s garden, which delighted me and heightened my sense of observation, awakened my curiosity and made me comfortable with solitude. It opened my eyes to an appreciation of colors and shapes, and brought wonder at its different cycles. Because there were no children my age in the neighborhood, I was often left alone there. Still vivid in my mind is the explosion of colors in the spring, the change of colors in the fall, the brilliance of the sun, the softness of the moon, the shadows cast by the trees, the rhythm and patterns of spacing and thinning, shaping and pruning, of watching things change, of seeing birds and plants mature and die. I remember observing this garden, its everyday activities and the activities of the adults who worked in it. My grandfather and his gardener used such love and caring. As I watched their passion I learned how to bring the same kind of attention that I now bring to my art." Nancy Azara, Veteran Feminists of America

    Nancy Azara is an artist and feminist educator best known for her large-scale wood sculptures and mixed media collages. Nancy developed, and continues to work in, a distinct style of sculpture working with found wood, carved, ornamented and mounted. Instinctive chip carving peels off an outer layer of wood, reaching for an essentialized raw experience of the body, of the limbs, exposing flesh and blood. This work explores life cycles, utilizing the metaphor of tree for personhood. Egg tempera, often in reds and pinks, and aluminum, palladium, gold gilding recover these exposed layers, exploring folkloric stories of women’s roles, goddess imagery, ancient symbols, mystic spiritual traditions and affirmation of female self. Nancy continues to make and exhibit work from her studios in Tribeca and Woodstock. She is constantly challenging herself and her community in quarterly intergenerational feminist dialogues, (RE)PRESENT, an outgrowth of NYFAI, The New York Feminist Art Institute, a school she co-founded in 1979. Here, she formalized automatic journal drawing for a class she taught  called Visual Diaries, Consciousness Raising Workshop, as a way to access the unconscious. This method quickly became popular as a feminist consciousness-raising technique and was  embraced in the nascent feminist art community in New York and with groups like Redstockings.

    Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Nancy Azara, Hand/Palm, 2018, carved and painted wood with aluminum leaf, 18 x 17 x 5 inches, Photo: Jude Broughan; The Twins, 2010, carved and painted wood with aluminum leaf, 12 x 3 inches each, Photo: Jude Broughan; Leaf Altar for Anunzia 1913-2004, 2007, carved and painted wood with aluminum leaf, 80 x 53 x 17 inches; Circle with Seven Hands, 1996, carved and painted wood with gold leaf, 5 feet x 40 inches in diameter; Red Twins, 2016, etching plate 13 x 16 inches, paper 21.5 x 22.25 inches, Photo: Courtesy VanDeb Editions; (below) portrait of the artist inside her work Spirit House of the Mother, 1994, carved and painted wood with gold leaf, 11 x 6 x 7 inches, photographed by Jamie McEwen.


    Nancy Azara: Votives, Sculptures, monograph published 2022 (download here)

    click on image to purchase

  • Tuesday, November 01, 2022 1:00 PM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Fluid Dynamics: Connecting the Drops at Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery

    by Kaya Turan

    From July 21st to October 29th, visitors to Stony Brook University’s Zuccaire Gallery were immersed in a space of aquatic motion: swirling whirlpools, falling rain, rising tides, melting ice, and flowing currents. “Connecting the Drops: The Power of Water,” an exhibition curated by the gallery’s director Karen Levitov, explores the kinetic capacities of water. The show presented the work of seven female artists who consider the role of water in climate crisis and environmental justice. “Connecting the Drops” emphasized the dynamic qualities of water, which are both constructive and destructive. The exhibition engaged with the ecological specificity of Long Island and Stony Brook, which occupies the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands of the aboriginal territory of the Setalcott and Shinnecock peoples. “Connecting the Drops” stressed the need for connective movements, for the productive and beautiful harnessing of fluid dynamics.     

    Jaanika Peerna, Ice Memory,  2021-ongoing

    Several works employed water itself as artistic medium. Jaanika Peerna’s Ice Memory, a large-scale drawing reaching the gallery’s ceiling, archives water’s transformative, but vanishing, properties. Each week, Peerna returned to the gallery to melt ice onto the drawing and gradually alter its composition. In Clepsydra for Carbon, Mary Mattingly similar offers water as a method of time-measurement, with a delicately constructed arrangement of tubes, plants, and flowing water which counts carbon absorption.

    Mary Mattingly, Clepsydra for Carbon, 2022

    Sculptural works by Erin Genia and Courtney M. Leonard explore the foundational, but increasingly strained entanglement of humans and water. Genia’s Earthling is a life-sized figure constructed in part with architectural model turf, reminding the visitor of the ecological constitution of their own corporeality. Painted and sculpted in part directly on the gallery wall, Beach: Logbook 22 | Cull (Leonard) uses wooden pallets and oyster shells to reference the history of the Shinnecock bay’s docks. These works critique Western culture’s estrangement from the natural world, examining the ways in which human bodies and cultures move and are moved by water. Similar themes are developed in Allicia Grullón’s multichannel video work 7 Stories About Water, which examines relations of cultural and individual memory to water.

    Betsy Damon, The Primary Movement of Water is the Vortex, 2018

    All is not (yet) lost: the exhibition also explored the generative and re-generative motions of water. Betsy Damon’s series of Sumi ink drawings, Principles of Water, examine the vortical movements of whirlpools and eddies, emphasizing the creative and productive nature of these kinetic patterns. In swirling, inky compositions, Damon posits turbulence as a kind of genesis. The restorative capacities of and for water are also foregrounded in Go H.O.M.E Bimini (Lillian Ball), an interactive video game which occupied a darkened corner in the rear of the gallery space. Using the strategy game Go, the game asks the player to envision and enact the restoration of mangrove wetlands in the Bahamas. The exhibition accordingly asked visitors to consider the ways in which we might foster and return water’s restorative powers.

    In “Connecting the Drops: The Power of Water,” water emerged as a fundamentally kinetic force. Thoroughly entangled with human life, aquatic processes make, and unmake, our world. The exhibition warned that how we relate to the flows and fluxes of water matters crucially in the time of anthropogenic climate crisis. “Connecting the Drops” both mourned and hoped, searching for rhythms that might allow for generative movement to flourish on our planet. 

    Kaya Turan is a PhD student in Art History & Criticism at Stony Brook University. His research focuses on contemporary experimental film and cinematic spectatorship in relation to digital media theory and ecology. His recent work engages with process philosophy and philosophy of science, as well as theories of “elemental” media, in order to examine relations between cinematic and ecological kinetics.

    Connecting the Drops: The Power of Water at the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery, Stony Brook University (July 21 - October 29, 2022)

    Watch Zuccaire Gallery panel discussion on Indigenous Art and Environmental Issues, including Courtney M. Leonard in Connecting the Drops, October 27, 2022.

  • Tuesday, November 01, 2022 9:27 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Fibers of Place: Michele Brody reconstructs local plants into visual reflections

    Interview by: Olivia Ann Carye Hallstein

    Integrating site-specific process-oriented paper making, Michele Brody addresses questions of localness, the natural world, and plant indigenousness. At her recent exhibition at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, presented in partnership with ecoartspace, Michele’s work reflects on both biodiversity and its loss. As a papermaker, her topic is the very fiber of her art and study whether in Vermont or in the Bronx. Her international experience has created a portfolio and knowledge base that truly embodies the idea of the “GLocal”. In our interview she discusses her experience in Vermont, her inspirations, and her process. 

    Entrance detail, handmade paper with local flora

    Hi Michele! What first struck me about your body of work is that you have worked creating site-specific pieces based on the local flora and fauna all over the world. How has the St. Michael’s College, Vermont area inspired you in a unique way?

    When I was invited to exhibit at St. Michael’s college, the Director Brian Collier invited me to come up for a preview visit. He especially wanted to show me the School’s Nature area. A property that for years had been rented out to a farmer. Once the school regained control of the land again, they decided to let it naturally go back to being a Riparian Forest.  When I went it was still in the early stages of re-growing native species such as Goldenrod, Milkweed and in the distance Cotton wood trees. I was especially excited to see Cattails growing along a natural marsh that the local beavers helped to create so that the land could go back to being a native wetland. I was especially inspired by the narrow swath of a walkway cut into the tall meadow throughout the nature area. I wanted to re-create this experience as one entered the gallery. The feeling of walking through the tall grass meadow sprouting up on either side of you.

    Exhibition entrance, handmade paper with local flora

    Native plants are so central to your work, and we are living in a time when climate change is ever-present.  What aspects of changing climate and resilience measures did you become aware of during your time in Vermont?

    Ironically, it was not until I started driving again after not owning a car for 20 years that I became more aware of the abundance of plant life along the roads and highways. While diving up to Vermont I was most attuned to looking for Cattails and Milkweed which are both Native to the area, but less and less available due to be crowded out by the non-native species of Phragmites and Mug wort. But once I entered Vermont, I was pleasantly surprised to see more of the native species growing along the highways. I believe this is mainly due to Vermont being less developed than the rest of the Northeast. Also, while on site at Saint Michael’s it was exciting to learn about the “Nature area” project to return farmland to being a natural wetland. The beavers were especially happy about this, and the fruits of their labors could certainly be seen, as well as the return of native species taking back the land.

    Your knowledge and observations about the nature around you are so intimate. What have these plants taught you about the world that people often overlook?

    The main thing I have learned that no matter what we as humans try to do to control and manage Nature, especially with the development of monocultures and agriculture, Nature will in the end find its own way to survive. It may not be the same as before, such as having non-native species take over the land where natives once thrive. But over time, nature will find its own balance and become once again more diverse and in abundance.

    Exhibition entrance, handmade paper with local flora

    Since we are talking about balance, I noticed that several pieces use both positive and negative space and imprinting to leave reliefs of local flora. What is the intention you have behind integrating some flora and imprinting others? And what role do non-native or Indigenous plants play?

    Much of my current work is inspired by Rachel Carson’s seminal book “Silent Spring.” The title for this series that integrates positive and negative imprints of local flora is "Nature in Absentia." The goal of "Nature in Absentia" is to illustrate how the current loss of ecological biodiversity within the natural environment due to over development, pollution and climate change is in stark contrast to the ever expanding cultural and racial diversity throughout the world. The impetus is to deconstruct and redefine the traditional practice of categorizing plants and animals as either native, non-native or invasive within a particular ecosystem in comparison to the ever-growing diversity of human populations through immigration, and to see how being sensitive to cultivating a balance between plant species can be mirrored in humans.

    In this effort to deconstruct and redefine traditional categorizations, you are using site-specific fibers. How has your medium and process inspired you in your work?

    The show in Vermont is titled after a recent series of handmade paper works called Papers of Place. For this series I have been producing handmade paper collages with pulp processed from natural seasonal detritus gathered from specific locations related to my practice and home. The series started when I was working as an Artist in Residence in 2018 at the Wave Hill Cultural Center and Garden in the Riverdale section of The Bronx. The work is very processed oriented involving the choice of location and plants, watching the seasons, knowing when best to harvest and gather materials, drying out and pressing the plants, then soaking the plants in water to loosen the fibers (which can get rather stinky in a one-bedroom apartment/studio), then I boil the fibers, pulverize the fibers in a beater until finally I can then get down to actually making the paper.

    St. Michael’s Nature Area/Riparian Forest, Vermont

    I believe it! And admire your dedication despite your space limitations. As a result, many of your works present organic forms which are often textural and allow the viewer to see the elements you have added. What is your visual philosophy regarding viewership and these textures?

    The essence of my practice thrives on the interaction with new communities by exploring what it means to establish roots within an unfamiliar environment. With each new location I conduct a careful investigative method that involves the gathering of regional materials, native plants, local stories, and historic research. I employ this process to create site-generated works of art that illuminate the unobserved in our day-to-day surroundings and the challenges facing our environment. I am intrigued with the process of creating a controlled environment where the work organically develops and changes over time. Building from this foundation, my work represents the daily flux and naturally occurring entropy surrounding us, while exploring how memory and time simultaneously erode and enhance the interpretations of our experiences.

    And lastly, what can art do that other forms of reflection and observation miss?

    Art has a way of communicating beyond language. Some can be heavy hitting and political, but the most successful artworks are the ones that subtly change one’s point of view, revealing things that may not have been seen before. Providing the viewer with a new outlook on the world, and hopefully a better appreciation for the beauty found in all things, in particular the day-to-day environment we take for granted.

    Thank you, Michele! It has been fantastic to interview you and very inspiring to think of the literal integration of a subject in an artwork. 

    Papers of Place at McCarthy Art Gallery, St. Michael’s College, Vermont (closed October 29, 2022)

  • Tuesday, November 01, 2022 7:59 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    Cynthia H. Veloric and Diane Burko in front of Summer Heat 1,2; 2020. Mixed media on canvas, 84” x 162” overall.

    Risky Beauty: Aesthetics and Climate Change: Not a Minute Too Soon

    By Arden Kass

    Risky Beauty: Aesthetics and Climate Change (closed October 28, 2022), curated by Cynthia Haveson Veloric, PhD, at Philadelphia’s Main Line Art Center, was an informative and affecting show. Showcasing six eco-artists, it presented a thoughtfully panoramic overview of life in the Anthropocene era from a diversity of artistic perspectives, both in a stylistic and literal sense. Yet distinctive as these works are, they share a common and disturbing subtext.

    Every art history course identifies the conflicting forces of Eros and Thanatos, Love and Death, as the struggle at the heart of most of the world’s great masterpieces in every artform. Similarly, the works in this show embody the (curator’s) view that beauty and devastation can share space, that the eye and brain are capable of processing both inputs simultaneously. What to make of that information is our problem — and responsibility. But each artist here undeniably pairs beauty with a message about the bottomless risk we take in continuing to distance our emotions and actions from the reality of climate change.

    Stacy Levy, Missing Waters, video, Painting the historic Norman Kill Creek flowing into the Bushwick Inlet, Brooklyn, NY,  2018;on right,Flushing Bay Kayak and Canoe Launch, Marina Road Corona, New York, 2020. Chalk and water on pavement, 120 yards x 15 yards.

    Stacy Levy, for example, “collaborates with the force of water” to illustrate the pathways in urban areas of underground streams that have been paved over but originally provided a watershed for storm overflow. Covering the asphalt with chalk paintings that evoke almost aboriginal patterns of waves and the rhythms of water, Levy signals how, as storms intensify, water will find a way to disperse, often by forcefully re-claiming its own former pathways.

    Deirdre Murphy scatters delicate, seemingly whimsical marks like handfuls of confetti across brightly colored, flat wooden disks representing Earth. Based on the flight routes taken by Arctic Terns fleeing their homes in search of more hospitable nesting grounds and interspersed with tiny dots that trace the spread of pathogens in our increasingly unstable atmosphere, the patterns chart the course of environmental disruption, chillingly underscored by the artist’s narrative of scientific research in which she participated.  

    Visitor contemplates Deirdre Murphy’s Invisible Currents Celestial Maps, 2022. Mixed media print on Japanese rice paper, 24” diameter.

    Hiro Sakaguchi expresses his “concerns for the wellbeing of this planet that is our home” in a candy-colored, childlike palette that belies the dire import of his imagery. Beneath their appealing surfaces, Sakaguchi’s paintings detail the rapacious devastation of our world in comics-inflected line drawings; from the approach of machines of war glimpsed through a scrim of crocuses, to the sheer chaos unleashed from outer space to ocean by human incursions into every dimension of the galaxy. They are both beguiling and terrifying.

    Working in an aesthetic that references “the sensory experience of being within the forest” Amie Potsic creates lush images of leaf canopies photographed or printed onto draped fabric. Her installation conjured a visual and sense memory that placed us in this sacred space essential to our survival, while silently raising the question of what will exist when that curtain is ripped away – when development, logging, or deadly wildfires, turn these magical environments into nothing more tangible than a memory.

    Tim Portlock composes digitized versions of imaginary urban landscapes to question the definitions of wilderness and civilization; what represents progress, what portends dystopia? And above all, what has become of the natural landscapes these human-made vistas are replacing?

    From left to right Hiro Sakaguchi, Deirdre Murphy, Amie Potsic, curator Cynthia H. Veloric, Stacy Levy, Diane Burko surrounded by Potsic’s Paradise, 2019. Archival pigment print on silk (rolled onto bolts).

    One of the staunchest and most irrefutable artistic voices on climate change, Diane Burko has devoted herself since 2006 to “critical thinking... about the impact humans are having on the environment.” In monumental and/or multi-panel images of rigorously designed, masterfully painted landscapes, often documented over time and supported by the inclusion of maps and charts, Burko does not traffic in metaphor or imagined scenarios, but in scientific fact. If there is a fantastical, allegorical dimension to her work, it is in the explosive contrast between the beauty captured in her images, and the unimaginable outcome of how it is being altered in our lifetimes…and how that plays out as we walk away from the magnificent vista portrayed with meta-accuracy before us.

    Yes, here on the East Coast, it is easier to be lulled into the sense that our tree-shaded, sun-dappled forests are endlessly resilient, or to embrace the hopeful notion that “something” might help us prevent catastrophe. This show illuminated the global “nature” of our situation, and its urgency. Risky Beauty, and more exhibitions like it, are both timely and essential. 

    Catalogue here

    Arden Kass writes for stage and film, as well as interviews, cultural essays, and personal narratives.

  • Tuesday, November 01, 2022 7:13 AM | ecoartspace (Administrator)

    The ecoartspace November 2022 e-Newsletter for subscribers is here

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