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.
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.
“The conference during which this exhibition takes place, Crossing the Line: Women of Anabaptist Traditions Cross Borders and Boundaries, invited presenters to consider border and boundary crossings in terms of ethnic and religious heritage, gender and sexual identity, geographic borders, private and public spaces, or disciplinary expression. The artists included in this exhibition most often cross lines in order to experiment and question, to make statements, or to think back through time.”
Artists in the exhibit included: Teresa Braun, Jen Dyck, Kandis Friesen, Jayne Holsinger, Jerry Holsopple, Mary Lou Weaver Houser, Gesine Janzen, Lora Jost, Audra Miller, Jennifer Miller, Teresa Pankratz, Jessie Pohl, and Karen Reimer.
“Does This Make Sense?” is a ballpoint pen drawing on clayboard (18″ x 14″) that I recently completed for an exhibition in conjunction with next summer’s conference,Â Crossing the Line: Women of Anabaptist Traditions Encounter Borders and Boundaries, at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA, June 22-25, 2017. Rachel Epp Buller, Associate Professor of Visual Arts and Design at Bethel College in N. Newton, KS, will curate the exhibit.
This pieceÂ includes words that have personal meaning for me about critical thinking. Borders between cultures, between different ways of thinking, between different sets of values, even between groups within a shared culture offer both a dividing line and, if we can look across these borders, the possibility of thinking critically about the ideas on each side of the line. And I am of course never fully on one side of the line or the other at any given time; these borders are permeable. Who I am is formed out of ideas and values from my Mennonite heritage and from my experiences and commitments in the wider world. When I think across borders I often find myself asking the important age-old question, â€œDoes this make sense?â€ By looking both ways, I find new ways to engage my commitment to decency and peace.
Animals–mostly birds but other critters too–have taken up residence in my art for many years. I didnâ€™t exactly invite them. Like squirrels drawn to my bird feeder, I donâ€™t recall intending to focus on critters but they have been drawn into my art. And yet I did put up the feeder,Â and I did create these images, and so of course I invited them. Birds, frogs, cats, cicadas, squirrels and other critters are with us in life and so too in my art. In Steamed (2011),Â a squirrel chatters noisily like so many colicky babies (or whistling teakettles), clamoring for attention. In Stir (2010), birds with human legs spring forth to dance or fly. And in Composition With Goose (2009), a calm cat and a very wound-up goose hold forth and argue.
But more recently, in the past half-year or so, Iâ€™ve changed a little. I am thinking more intentionally about critters, my relationship to them, and the impact of human activity and climate change on them. I think of my pictures as a stage and the animals and people in them as characters playing a part. But instead of using birds or squirrels to tell stories that are really about people, the critters Iâ€™m drawing now are playing the part of themselves and are part of the story. In Frog, My Friend, for example, a frog, a casualty of the South Lawrence Trafficway, is carried off by â€œDeath.â€ Or maybe the frog is our pet frog that died because we just couldnâ€™t take care of him right. Either way, the frog in this story is a frog. In Run!, a Prairie Chicken plays its own part, too, on the run from Death due to habitat destruction and Kansas politics. In Passenger Pigeon: Abstract Memory, a cloud of extinct Passenger Pigeons becomes abstract and fades from memory. In Robin, Been and Gone, a robin is depicted along with several robin-silhouettes, symbolizing presence and absence, a reminder of what pesticides can do to birds. These are of course my images for my very human purposes, too. But I hope that by thinking more about the role of animals in my work, I can remind viewers that we have a relationship with animals, and that this relationship is fragile.
Making work about the negative impact of humans on critters is a new direction in my art, the beginning of a
larger body of work. I was moved to think more about animals in the broadest sense of the wordÂ after reading Elizabeth Kolbertâ€™s The Sixth Extinction. Her book includes story after story of scientists worldwide documenting the process of animals becoming extinct because of human-caused global warming. Animals are leaving us now, and they are never coming back.
In my new work I am guided too by collaborating with my composer-friend Lynn Gumert, of Hightstown, NJ.Â Lynn and I have talked on the phone and we have exchanged emails, images, and sound. We are working together on loosely-related themes in our work, themes that include the impact of climate change on weather, animals, and us.Â Lynn is working on a series of related short saxophone quartet pieces, and eventually our work will be presented together.Â Her first notes to me depicted a river. Building on her compositions I am also playing with images of saxophones and literally drawing their â€œsound,â€ asÂ in River Song. In this piece, a Mourning Dove plays a saxophone-river. This, too, is another experiment in visual storytelling.
Please join Karen Matheis and me for our two-person show at the Phoenix Underground, opening Final Friday, June 27, 2014, 5 – 9 pm, from June 27 – July 23 at the Phoenix Underground (825 Massachusetts, Lawrence, KS). I’ll show these works and others too, and almost all of them include animals.
Come see Declarations, a mixed-media on scratchboard piece at the opening reception for the exhibit “Make More Love!”
Final Friday, Jan. 31, 2014
5 – 9 pm
The Percolator is between 9th and 10th Streets and half a block east of New Hampshire St. It is in the alley behind the Lawrence Arts Center, Lawrence, KS.
On With the Show celebrates the creative expression of children, and is part of the exhibit Art Lives!, a statewide collaborative project coordinated by the Feminist Art Project as a response to Governor Brownback’s elimination of the Kansas Arts Commission (KAC) a year ago.
The Kansas Arts Commission worked hard to support the making of art by children in schools and community centers across the state. When the KAC was cut, these programs were cut too. In addition, the state has cut funding to the public schools and this also means cuts to the arts. What happens when our state decides that we no longer need to nurture the imagination and creative spirit of young people?