Sound the Climate Alarm is, in broad terms, my response to climate change, animal extinction, barriers, border walls, and the pandemic. I was happy to discover the writer and poet Mathew Zapruderâ€™s description of how he views the language of poetry, because I think it is a helpful way to think about the images in my exhibit, too.
Zapruder talks about poetry as â€œlanguage freed from utility.â€ He says poetry is how we â€œget to the truth that is beyond our ability to articulate.â€ So where, in my drawings, chickadees sing razor wire, thereâ€™s a cardinal honking, or a paper boat is lit on fire, I think these are the kinds of images Zapruder was talking about, intended to â€œproduce an effect in us, rather than to communicate information.â€
So, while I am working with specific themes in my art, my images are intended less to communicate information than to evoke impressions, inspire imagination, and spark concern.
Visit my exhibit in-person at the Lawrence Arts Center, now through Dec. 21, 2020. Original art and artist prints, suitable as gifts, are available for purchase. Hours are M-Th 9am-9pm, F-Sa 9am-7pm, and Su 1:30-7:30 pm. As Covid-19 rages on, the Arts Center is pretty low-key these days and it is likely that during a random visit to my exhibit you may find yourself alone in the space. If you would prefer a virtual tour, scroll down the page at this link, courtesy of the Lawrence Arts Center.
Symbols and Themes
In my last blog, Roots of Sound the Climate Alarm, I described the sources and background of the first ideas for this exhibit. In this blog, Iâ€™d like to share about some of the symbols and themes that have emerged in my newer work for this show.
While I have included images of birds in my artwork for many years, more recently I have focused on cardinals. Everybodyâ€™s familiar with cardinals and, because of this, images of cardinals have a shared resonance. Four drawings in my show include cardinals. For me, cardinals are versatile characters, sometimes messengers, and sometimes harbingers of joy and Spring. I also include other birds in my artwork, too, often generic-looking birds that represent an assortment of ideas including freedom, the kind of freedom that I imagine goes along with flight, such as the ability to traverse barriers like walls and fences. In two small drawings I exaggerated the wings of a bird in flight to represent a mixture of effort and joy, and in another I exaggerated the wings of a sitting bird (right) to represent a mixture of exhaustion and rest.
I have included images of paper boats and paper cranes in my artwork for several years. I view the paper boats as both fragile and resilient. Iâ€™ve used the boats in two pieces that signify the effects of extreme weather; in one a paper boat is on fire (above left), and in another the paper boats are rocked around by a storm or flood. I have a few more weather-related pieces in the show, too, one that includes wind blowing a bird nest from a tree (above right), one of rain in the presence of a curiously yellow rainbow, and one showing a windchime whipping around in the midst of a microburst.
I made a small installation of drawings of paper cranes for this show, too (left). Many of us grew up learning one or another version of the story of Sadako and the paper cranes. Sadako, a Japanese girl, was a victim of radiation sickness from the atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima. She tried to fold a thousand paper cranes for good luck and long life, but she did eventually die from leukemia. Over time, the paper cranes have become a symbol for international peace, and that is how I use them in my art.
In the drawings that comprise the installation, I was experimenting with drawing a paper crane every day as a ritual. I began the drawings when President Trump was threatening airstrikes on Syria, which he later ordered. As I drew, I was thinking about the meaning of the cranes and, on some days, drawing became a kind of meditation. The daily drawings were also a way for me to practice drawing and become more fluid with drawing. So, the paper-crane installation is a documentation of that process
Several pieces in the show include images of fences and razor wire (above left and right). These pieces reference prisons, the border wall, detention centers, Guantanamo Bay and, in one, titled ICE (above right), immigration policies like family separation that violate human rights. Naomi Klein recently tweeted, â€œthere is no such thing as a singular disaster anymore â€“ if there ever was. From Covid to climate, every disaster contains every other disaster within it. Every fire is a conflagration of all the other fires.â€ In my show, I try to make a similar point, that climate change-induced extreme weather events contribute to peopleâ€™s need to migrate, and inhumane immigration policies deepen the crisis: fires within fires, disasters within disasters.
I also use arches or archways as symbols. In the exhibit, I use arches in three small mosaics (above), several drawings and a collage. Arches can symbolize doorways, or openings, or passageways. I think of them as a symbol for life and hope. They also symbolize safe passage through barriers, maybe even mental barriers. Some of my arches also appear as rainbows, a symbol of promise or hope in some religious traditions.
In my next blog, Iâ€™ll share about the art that I have made most recently for this show, made during the pandemic, and how the pandemic has affected my creative process.
Visit my exhibit in-person at the Lawrence Arts Center, now through Dec. 21, 2020. Original art and artist prints, suitable as gifts, are available for purchase. Hours areÂ M-Th 9am-9pm, F-Sa 9am-7pm, and Su 1:30-7:30 pm.Â As Covid-19 rages on, the Arts Center is pretty low-key these days and it is likely that during a random visit to my exhibit you may find yourself alone in the space. If you would prefer a virtual tour, scroll down the page at this link , courtesy of the Lawrence Arts Center.
While walking at the Baker Wetlands a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to see a line of more than 50 pelicans making their way across the sky, single file. I’m always amazed when I see pelicans in Kansas, their presence feels so improbable here. I had been making sketchbook-drawings of origami cranes as a kind of meditation during this crazy time. But with pelicans on my mind, I thought it would be fun to fold and draw an origami pelican, too. I made a drawing of the pelican in ballpoint pen first, and then made it again in scratchboard.
I am excited to have an exhibit of mosaics, scratchboard, and drawings at the Carriage Factory Gallery in Newton, Kansas! The exhibit runs July 27 – September 20, and is located at 128 E. 6th St., near downtown Newton. Gallery hours: T-FÂ 12-5pm,Â Sa 10am-5pm.
I am exhibiting my art along with two others, Rachel Epp Buller and Emily Willis Schroeder. The title for our collective exhibit is, Our Lives. Past. Present. Future. My portion of the exhibit is called, “Sound the Climate Alarm,” and my artist statement follows:
Sound the Climate Alarm
In my exhibit of drawings and mosaics, cardinals honk and chickadees sing razor wire. Death chases a prairie chicken with a blaring saxophone. Animals, drawn from memory, reveal the loss we find when we are without them. Origami cranes, an international symbol for peace, fly over walls and meander through chain link fences. And yet, archways that imply the presence of barriers also show a way to pass through them. The cardinalâ€™s song is visually amplified as a message of hope and renewal. A car with loudspeakers on top blasts an unusual wish for the world. With a sense of beauty and compassion, through images that visualize sounds that are both real and imagined, my work â€œsounds the alarmâ€ on climate change, animal extinction, and other urgent concerns, encouraging the viewer to â€œlistenâ€ with an open heart towards creating a future where there is enough to share and compassion for all.
All are invited to the opening reception for the Lawrence Art Center’s 2018 Benefit Art Auction on March 9, 2018, from 7-9pm (940 New Hampshire St., Lawrence, KS.) I contributed Windmill this year, a whimsical little scratchboard piece with a few color highlights. If you’d like to bid on it or another auction-piece, you can do so in person through the auction-event on April 14 (tickets needed), or bid on-line at the arts center’s on-line bidding link.
The 2017-pack of cards includes art by Lana Grove, Maya Weslander, Brisa Andrade, Chelsea Karma McKee, Johnna Harrison, and Elijah Jackson. All of the submissions will be on display this week at the library.
You can pick up a new trading card every day this week at the library, starting today (Sunday September 24, 2017) through Saturday. My card will go out tomorrow!
My banned book submission celebrates Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, by F. Arturo Rosales (Arte Publico Press, 1996). Chicano! is one of seven specific texts that were banned from classrooms in Tucson, Arizona, in 2012. Additional books and teaching materials were also confiscated. The books were banned when the Tucson Unified School District eliminated the Mexican American Studies program in response to a controversial state law meant to curtail ethnic studies programs. The law was widely understood to target the Tucson program.
I chose to highlight a book that would draw attention to this egregious case of government censorship. Although Banned Books Week often celebrates novels and well-known classics, scholarly books like Chicano! are sometimes banned, too, and I wanted to show this. I turned the tables a bit with my image, too. Instead of portraying a story that occurs within the book, my image portrays the book itself within the story of its banning. My illustration shows a student protesting the banning of ethnic studies, with the book on her protest sign. Her mouth is taped, a potent image used by students in their protests against the ban.
Rosales wrote Chicano! to accompany a four-part television series by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which aired the programs in 1996. Both are heralded as providing the most comprehensive account of the Mexican American civil rights movement, a movement whose stories are, as Rosales notes, â€œpractically untold.â€ It was interesting for me to imagine the elimination of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, and the protests over it, as a new chapter in Rosalesâ€™s book.
Chicano! was pulled from classrooms as a result ofÂ Arizona state law HB 2281, which prohibits public and charter school courses that â€œpromote the overthrow of the United States government,â€ â€œpromote resentment towards a race or class of people,â€ â€œare designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,â€ or â€œadvocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.â€ An independent audit of Tucsonâ€™s Mexican American Studies program found it to be in compliance with the law and recommended its expansion. But the Tucson school districtâ€™s superintendent, along with officials from the Arizona Department of Education, decided the program was not in compliance, and the program was cut. The program was in limbo for many years, with some parts reinstated, as a challenge to the law made its way through the courts.
I am happy to report that in August of 2017, just last month, a judge found that Tusconâ€™s Mexican American Studies Program was a victim of â€˜racial animus,â€ and proclaimed the Arizona state law to be unconstitutional.
–Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by F. Arturo Rosales (Arte Publico Press, 1997)
–University at Albany website http://www.albany.edu/jmmh/vol3/chicano/chicano.html