Blog 5: Poetic Language

Gallery view, Sound the Climate Alarm, 2020

This is the fifth and last in a series of blogs about my current exhibit, Sound the Climate Alarm, on display at the Lawrence Arts Center now through Dec. 21, 2020. Here are links to the first four:

Blog 1: Artist Statement: Sound the Climate Alarm

Blog 2: Roots of Sound the Climate Alarm

Blog 3: Symbols and Themes

Blog 4: Making Art in Covid-times

Fire (detail)
Cranes Over Fence (detail)

Poetic Language

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 Zapruder’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.

Dee Dee Dee (detail)

Zapruder talks about poetry as “language freed from utility.” He says poetry is how we “get to the truth that is beyond our ability to articulate.” So where, in my drawings, chickadees sing razor wire, there’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 “produce an effect in us, rather than to communicate information.”

Red Arch (detail)
Skateboard (detail)

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.

Installation of paper crane drawings, Lawrence Arts Center, 2020

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.

Artist prints are on sale in the gallery

Blog 4: Making Art in Covid-times

This is the fourth in a series of blogs about my current exhibit, Sound the Climate Alarm, on display at the Lawrence Arts Center now through Dec. 21, 2020. Here are links to the first three:

Blog 1: Artist Statement: Sound the Climate Alarm

Blog 2: Roots of Sound the Climate Alarm

Blog 3: Symbols and Themes

 

Making Art in Covid-times

 

My most recent work for this exhibit includes art that I have made during the pandemic. I am fortunate and, yes, privileged, to be mostly working at home. During this time, I’ve created two of my favorite pieces in the show.

Light, 2020

One is a drawing originally intended to celebrate renewable energy, titled Light (above). I like this drawing because through the creative process it became more complicated than I had first imagined. Instead of inspirational, as I’d initially intended, the windmills and power lines became oddly dark and industrial, not the utopian renewable energy future I had hoped for. And the mixing of birds and windmills in the piece led one viewer to tell me about bladeless windmills – I’d never heard of them. Similarly, the archway of drawn light bulbs, meant to look radiant, includes dated-looking bulbs, not energy efficient—what was I thinking? Yet the incongruity in the drawing feels right during Covid-times, because nothing now is right, and we’ll never have a climate change-free utopian future or the perfect technology to make it so, but, as in this drawing, we still should try.

Phoenix Rising, 2020

I also created a collage piece, titled Phoenix Rising (left), that merges silhouetted hands as birds rising from the archway made of orange and yellow thread, representing fire. This piece evolved over time. I didn’t know what it would be until I had painted and glued down several layers of cloth and thread. When I discovered the crux of what I wanted to make, I was very pleased.

 

Although these recent pieces are among my favorites in the show, I have also found Covid-times to be a difficult time to create art, especially on the theme of climate change.

Mask, 2020

It was hard for me to think about climate change with Covid raging. Early in the pandemic, I made a piece about Covid, the kind of piece that other artists were making too, a masked self-portrait (above). As I thought about including a piece about Covid in this show, I remembered the quote from climate activist Naomi Klein, which I used in Blog 3, that “every disaster contains every other disaster within it. Every fire is a conflagration of all the other fires.” And so, it seems. Climate change is likely to bring more pandemics; both climate change and pandemic disease bring greater harm to people already harmed by racism and economic inequality; and the ongoing crisis has destroyed the jobs especially of those who are already poor. An impending climate crisis, a raging pandemic, a painful economic crisis: disasters within disasters, fires within fires.

Two Birds, 2020
Helicopters, 2020

In my art-making world, Covid-days are long, but the days fly by. My creative process is like moving through molasses, and I suspect I’m not unique. Early on in the pandemic, I couldn’t get anything done. What I felt done with, though, was climate change as a theme, at least for a while, and done with Covid in my artwork, too. I wanted to make small drawings on paper. I would try to make a piece every day (that didn’t happen), and I wanted to experiment with gouache. I made seven little drawings as part of this goal, some with pen and some with a combination of pen and gouache. While these drawings didn’t overtly further my climate-related theme, making them was therapeutic, and I included them in my climate change show anyhow.

 

In my next and final blog in this series, I’ll conclude with some thoughts on poetic images, and on how I hope viewers will find my exhibit interesting to look at.  

 

Cat, 2020

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.

 

Blog 3: Symbols and Themes

This is the third in a series of blogs about my current exhibit, Sound the Climate Alarm, on display at the Lawrence Arts Center now through Dec. 21, 2020. Here are links for the first two:

Blog 1: Artist Statement: Sound the Climate Alarm

Blog 2: Roots of Sound the Climate Alarm

 

Symbols and Themes

Installation view, Sound the Climate Alarm, 2020

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, I’d like to share about some of the symbols and themes that have emerged in my newer work for this show. 

Cardinal Spring, 2019
Death with Cardinals (detail), 2019

While I have included images of birds in my artwork for many years, more recently I have focused on cardinals. Everybody’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.

Fire, 2016
Thrown, 2019

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. I’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. 

Paper Cranes Installation (drawings from 2017)

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 

 

Ice, 2019
Cranes over Fence, 2018

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, “there is no such thing as a singular disaster anymore – 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.” In my show, I try to make a similar point, that climate change-induced extreme weather events contribute to people’s need to migrate, and inhumane immigration policies deepen the crisis: fires within fires, disasters within disasters. 

Black Arch, 2018

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. 

Two Birds, 2020

 

In my next blog, I’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 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.

Blog 1: Artist Statement: Sound the Climate Alarm

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: The exhibit “Sound the Climate Alarm” will be on display at the Lumberyard Arts Center in Baldwin City, Kansas, from Aug. 20 – Sept. 14, 2021. The public is invited to an exhibit reception on Sat., Sept. 4, 5 – 7pm. Gallery hours: Tues. – Fri. 1-4pm and Sat. 9am-noon.

 

This is the first in a series of blogs about my current exhibit, Sound the Climate Alarm, on display at the Lawrence Arts Center now through Dec. 21, 2020. My first blog, below, includes the artist statement that accompanies the show. In subsequent posts, I will share about the themes, symbols, and ideas in my work, and how I came to these through the creative process.

 

Artist Statement: Sound the Climate Alarm

 

In my drawings, 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. The cardinal’s song is visually amplified as a message of hope and renewal. A car with loudspeakers blasts an unusual wish for the world. Mosaics portray archways as a symbol for barriers with a way to pass through. Less an attempt to teach than an effort to explore the emotional states connected with an awareness of climate change, animal extinction, and related social stresses, these emotionally packed drawings, collages, and mosaics express alarm, despair, joy and possibility. With a sense of beauty and compassion, my art encourages the viewer to “listen” with a heart open to creating a future where there is enough to share and compassion for all.

 

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.

 

Find all five of the blogs in this series at the following links:

Blog 2: Roots of Sound the Climate Alarm

Blog 3: Symbols and Themes

Blog 4: Making Art in Covid-times

Blog 5: Poetic Language

Exhibit, talks, and virtual tour of “Sound the Climate Alarm”

“Sound the Climate Alarm,” my exhibit of drawings, collages, and mosaics on the theme of climate change at the Lawrence Arts Center, is up and running and open for visitors! See the exhibit in person now through Dec. 21 (masks required). Gallery hours are M-Th 9am-9pm, F-Sa 9am- 7pm, and Su 1:30-7:30 pm.

 

Take a virtual tour of my exhibit, courtesy of the Lawrence Arts Center, at this link.

 

Sign up for a gallery talk at the Lawrence Arts Center, on Nov. 19 at 6:30pm or Dec. 5 at 4pm, at this link . Talks will be limited to 10 people; attendees must wear masks and practice social distancing.

 

(photo courtesy of the Lawrence Arts Center)

Pelican

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.

Mennonite Arts Weekend in Cincinnati

Group exhibit at Mennonite Arts Weekend 2020
Flier for Mennonite Arts Weekend 2020

I had a great time as a presenter at Mennonite Arts Weekend in Cincinnati. I met a lot of wonderful people who shared their experiences as artists, writers, actors, and musicians. I enjoyed the presentations and performances I attended, among them by painter Freiman Stolzfus, jewelry maker Kat Luginbuhl, poet Julie Swarstad Johnson, artists Brooke and Justin Rothshank, the DeCapo Chamber Choir, and hammered dulcimer musician Ted Yoder. I wish I could have attended every panel — I know I missed some great ones. I also appreciated the opportunity to share my slide talk about my art over the last six years, and my new work, “Sound the Climate Alarm.”

My work in the group exhibit at Mennonite Arts Weekend 2020