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.”
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-F 12-5pm, 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 cardinal’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 “sounds the alarm” on climate change, animal extinction, and other urgent concerns, encouraging the viewer to “listen” with an open heart towards creating a future where there is enough to share and compassion for all.
I’m excited to share the following links that comprise the coverage of our collaborative project, Heating Up: Artists Respond to Climate Change. These include blogs on the USDAC website, and local press coverage:
Heating Up: Artists Respond to Climate Change — to feature art exhibit, month-long series of educational and cultural events
The exhibit is posted as a Facebook event: http://on.fb.me/1T6XHsn.
All project events are posted on the LETUS website: http://bit.ly/1ngBiuv
LAWRENCE — “Heating Up: Artists Respond to Climate Change” is an art exhibit and month-long series of cultural and educational events scheduled for March and April in Lawrence, Kansas. The project brings together dozens of local and regional artists, poets, educators and performers working on climate change. A panel discussion in April includes a combination of nationally active and prominent local voices.
The exhibit “Heating up: Artists Respond to Climate Change,” opens on Final Friday, March 25, 2016, 5 – 10pm, at the Lawrence Percolator located in the alley east of New Hampshire St. between 9th St. and 10th St., behind the Lawrence Arts Center. The opening will feature three brief performances. At 7 and 9 pm, Robert Baker will read poetry by Langston Hughes and the band Ovaries-eez will perform. At 8 pm, local poets Dennis Etzel, Sandy Hazlett, Denise Low, Topher Enneking, Nancy Hubble, and Mary Wharff will read from their poetry, and Doug Hitt will briefly speak about his co-authored book A Kansas Bestiary. The exhibit runs March 25 – April 23 and is open Saturdays and Sundays, noon – 5pm.
“We hope that the exhibit bolsters a community conversation about climate change and what we can do about it,” said committee co-chair Lora Jost.
The exhibit includes the work of 42 local and regional artists with diverse viewpoints, some working in teams. The exhibit includes art by professionals and non-professionals, among them professors and students alike.
“We wanted to exhibit the work of artists who are already working on climate change as well as to activate others to engage climate change as a new theme in their work,” said committee co-chair Sara Taliaferro.
Art in the exhibit includes paintings, prints, drawings, an artist book, sculptures, and installations. Some of the art pieces concern the roots of climate change and the effects of fossil fuel consumption on the weather, animals, and people. Some of the art pieces convey deep despair. One artist’s work is a metaphor for creativity born from crisis. Additional art pieces offer hope, visualizing ways to work together toward solutions.
Justin Marable’s prints, for example, with images of coal smoke, dinosaur bones, birds and buffalo, illustrate how fossil fuel use and consumerism affect the earth and animals. Damia Smith’s colorful, intricate, enameled copper images reveal how burning coal in the United States brings drought and famine to north Africa. A painting by Haskell Indian Nations University student Geraldine Walsey shows a woman looking to the past through winged eyes, “searching for the beauty of what nature once was, and now is rarely seen today.”
Laura Ramberg’s ceramic cloud vessels evoke sharing food and other resources as a way to reduce the need and greed arising from our reliance on fossil fuels. A team of artists (KU Professor Matthew Burke and then students Samuel Balbuena, Cameron Pratte, Vi Stenzel, and Cortney Wise) contributed a functional beehive that, once launched, offers a home for the dwindling honeybee population. Marin Abell’s whimsical 9-foot long flat-bottomed trolling motorboat, complete with serpent heads, is made with Eurasian Milfoil (an invasive aquatic plant that threatens lakes) and runs on distilled Milfoil ethanol.
Jill Ensley’s interactive board game playfully asks serious questions about our future: “Will the last iceberg melt? Will the pollinators die off? Will you opt to take in those climate refugees? Do you believe we can step back from the edge, or that it’s too late?”
Exhibiting artists include: Marin Abell, Angie Babbit, Rena Detrixhe, Jill Ensley, Neil Goss, Lisa Grossman, Eleanor Heimbaugh, Nancy Hubble, Lora Jost, Dave Loewenstein, Justin Marable, Nancy Marshall, Kaylyn Munro, Molly Murphy, Laura Ramberg, Hirsuta Pilosa, Michelle Rogne, Kent Smith, Damia Smith, Sara Taliaferro, Garret Tufte, David Titterington, Nicholas Ward, Ethan Candyfire, Georgia Kennidee Rikie Boyer, Kyuss Hala, Kayla Kent, Cleta LaBrie, Lori Hasselman, Alyx Stephenson, Geraldine Emily Walsey, Katie Manuelito, and KT Walsh. Three teams of the following artists have created collaborative works: Samuel Balbuena, Matthew Burke, Cameron Pratte, Vi Stenzel, and Cortney Wise; Amanda Monaghan and Pablo Cerca; and Amanda Maciuba, Tim O’brien and Mary Wharff.
The exhibit and related events are sponsored by two Lawrence community groups, the USDAC-Lawrence Field Office and Lawrence Ecology Teams United in Sustainability (LETUS), in collaboration with Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU) and the Lawrence Percolator. (See USDAC-Lawrence Field Office at http://on.fb.me/20riNAM, the USDAC national office at http://www.usdac.us, and LETUS at https://lawrenceecologyteams.wordpress.com/about/.)
The “Heating Up” project grew out of a local event in 2014 that brought together these sponsoring groups with leaders from the Haskell Indian Nations University community, on a march and art event against climate change. The success of the 2014 event helped inspire the current collaboration.. (See link for 2014 collaboration http://usdac.us/news-long/2014/10/16/the-peoples-climate-march-makerspeaker-party-lawrence-ks).
“How Can We Work Together on Climate Change?” is a panel discussion that is free and open to the public on Sunday April 10, 3-5pm, Parker Hall, Room 110, at Haskell Indian Nations University. The event includes five prestigious panelists, all local, with an exciting combination of experiences and expertise on climate change, arts and culture, community organizing, and practical steps to a sustainable future. Panelists include Saralyn Reece Hardy, Director of the Spencer Museum of Art; Thad Holcombe, retired Ecumenical Christian Ministries Campus Minister at KU and Moderator for Lawrence Ecology Teams United in Sustainability; Eileen Horn, Sustainability Coordinator for Douglas County and the City of Lawrence and formerly with the Climate and Energy Project and Interfaith Power and Light; Jay T. Johnson, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Geography and Atmospheric Science at KU and directs KU’s Center for Indigenous Research, Science, and Technology; Dan Wildcat, professor at Haskell Indian Nations University, Director of the Haskell Environmental Research Studies Center, and Convener of the American Indian/Alaska Native Climate Change Working Group. The panel will be facilitated by Sara Taliaferro with music by Alex Williams and art by Haskell students. The panel discussion is listed as a Facebook event: http://on.fb.me/1L6z6l8
“Mrs. Noah in Poetry and Dance” is a collaborative performance by poet Elizabeth Schultz and dancer Joan Stone, on Friday April 15, 2016, at the Lawrence Percolator, with performances at 7 and 9pm. The collaboration includes Stone’s insightful dance interpretations of Schultz’s poems that reflect on the relationships among humans and animals, examining how catastrophes disturb these relationships, how the resulting tremors connect us, and how we survive together, learning from one another. Elizabeth Schultz, retired from KU’s English Department, has published a large body of scholarly writings, books of poetry, short stories, essays, and a memoir, and is a dedicated advocate for the arts and the environment. Joan Stone taught dance history and choreography at the University of Kansas from 1982 to 2010, and through dance explores nature, dance and politics, women as history makers, and the relationship between gesture and word. The performance is listed as a Facebook event: http://on.fb.me/1njVj3i
“A Change in the Weather: Writing From Climate Change Art,” is a free all-ages writing workshop on Sunday April 17, 2-4pm at the Lawrence Percolator. Please plan to attend the whole workshop to help create a circle of deep sharing and reflecting. Led by former poet laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and naturalist and writer Ken Lassman, participants will consider their own “internal and external weather” in relation to climate change by dwelling among the art exhibit as a key writing prompt. The writing workshop is listed as a Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1Qr1led
Hang12 “Effecting Change” includes art made from repurposed materials by teens, coordinated by the Lawrence Art Center’s youth curatorial board Hang12. The public is invited to the exhibit’s Final Friday opening on March 25, 5-8pm, Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St. The exhibit runs for a month and is open Tuesday – Friday, 10am-4pm (and on Thursdays in April from 10am – 8pm). “Climate Change is an issue that impacts all of us. To bring awareness to this subject we asked artists to use repurposed materials within their artwork to take a stand on Climate Change and environmental issues.” Watkins website: http://bit.ly/1Rsh4X7
Eco Ambassadors “Haskell Wetlands Restoration Day” invites the public to join this Haskell student-led workday of seeding and planting to help restore the Haskell Wetlands, on Saturday April 16, 2016, 10am-2pm. Bring gloves and gardening/landscaping tools. Directions: Come straight on Massachusetts St. heading S., continue S. past Indian Health Service. Massachusetts St. turns into W. Perimeter Rd. so keep going and follow road around campus until you get to the intersection of W. Perimeter Rd. and Barker Ave. Dr. Then turn right onto Barker Ave. Dr. (you are going south), go straight and you will run right into the wetlands access gate. The workday is listed as a Facebook event: http://bit.ly/1ZtKmuh
Animals–mostly birds but other critters too–have taken up residence in my art for many years. I didn’t exactly invite them. Like squirrels drawn to my bird feeder, I don’t recall intending to focus on critters but they have been drawn into my art. And yet I did put up the feeder, 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), 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, I’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 I’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 “Death.” Or maybe the frog is our pet frog that died because we just couldn’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 word after reading Elizabeth Kolbert’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. 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. Lynn is working on a series of related short saxophone quartet pieces, and eventually our work will be presented together. Her first notes to me depicted a river. Building on her compositions I am also playing with images of saxophones and literally drawing their “sound,” as 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.
You are invited to an art opening in Lincoln, Kansas!
Cut, Scratch, Smash, Stack featuring the work of Hanna Eastin of Newton, KS, and Angie Pickman and me of Lawrence, KS, opens on Saturday, May 11, 5:30-7:30 pm at the Lincoln Art Center in Lincoln, KS, and runs through June 28, 2013. (Lincoln, KS is 45-minutes northeast of Salina, KS.)
This exhibit is free and open to the public Tuesday through Friday noon to 4:00 p.m. and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Lincoln Art Center, 126 E. Lincoln Ave, Lincoln, KS, 67455. For more information call 785-524-3241 or visit the Lincoln Art Center website for more information.
In other news, the new Lawrence Magazine is out and I have an illustration in it about catfish! Flatheads to be exact. Check it out — the story is about Thomas Burns, one of the regions greatest fisherman on the Kaw. Lawrence Magazine is available free at many Lawrence businesses, the visitor’s center, and on-line.
UPDATE: We had a lovely crowd and a great opening at the Lincoln Art Center! Here’s a photo of the installation. My work hangs on the wall with Hanna Eastin’s sculpture in the foreground. (Angie Pickman’s cut paper art is on the opposite wall):
My sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project is done! News, Boats, Better Angels: A Visual Journal, along with thousands of other sketchbooks from around the world, will be included in a traveling exhibit of artist books made this year. The project is coordinated by the Brooklyn Art Library, a branch of the Art House Co-op based in Brooklyn, NY. An on-line catalog of this year’s books will be coming soon.
I have long kept sketchbooks to examine my life and creative process, but this is the first time I’ve made one for public view. It is still a process-oriented book like my other sketchbooks, but in this one I focused on several ongoing themes: better angels (a theme I can’t quite explain but it has to do with grappling with what is the right thing to do), paper boats (a symbol for the flow of life), and news (my response to newspaper stories that struck me especially in an election year). I enjoyed the project because it has enabled me to share a looser, more personal kind of art with others, and I’m excited that I will be able to see other people’s sketchbooks, too.
Here is the story of Art Lives!, one of two pieces that I co-created with Erika Nelson for the collaborative exhibit Art Lives!, coordinated by Rachel Epp Buller of the Feminist Art Project. Women artists from across Kansas were paired for this project to make both individual and collaborative artwork addressing the theme “Art Lives!” in light of the elimination of the Kansas Arts Commission a year ago.
Here is the process of how Erika and I made Art Lives! We wrote an artist statement together, trading our writing back and forth to work on in the same way that we worked on the piece itself. I begin:
Stage 1 – Lora:
Erika and I began collaborating on two art pieces after exchanging a couple of emails and talking on the phone. Because we live hundreds of miles apart and still to this day have never met, we decided on a process in which we would each begin making a piece that we would then mail to the other for additional work. We would mail the pieces back and forth until our deadline — one focused loosely on “politics” and the other on “art lives.” The process would be a conversation, a slow-moving, visual-heavy conversation about the state of the arts in Kansas.
I began our piece, that we eventually titled Art Lives!, by painting a baby bird held in someone’s hand. I had toyed with using this image in some of my own art ever since seeing a photo of a baby bird in a National Geographic magazine a couple of years ago that I had made sketches from. I think of the baby bird here as a stand-in for babies of all kinds who are both fragile and yet are amazingly strong and resilient. Was this bird dead or alive? Maybe that would be a good way to start a piece about the state of the arts in Kansas.
Stage 2 – Erika:
I saw the beginning of Art Lives! and thought about some of the conversations that had been occurring throughout the past year regarding the arts – when is it endangered? When is it cared for? Whose hand is that? It brought to mind a Christmas visit to an area racked by the same issues, but with dire results. On the banks of an inland sea, two shores exist. On one shore, bird hatcheries and aviaries, on the other, a mass of death where the wildlife of the sea washes up to become a part of the beach – a beach made only of the remnants of the life that grows just on the other shore. The bird image that makes up the second layer came from this second shore.
Stage 3 – Lora:
I had been curious how Erika would respond to my baby bird image, and getting the package in the mail with her visual response was akin to birthday mail. I immediately liked her overlay of the adult bird image, and read her note about where the image came from. While I hadn’t viewed this bird as death absolutely, the image did remind me of a photography project that had made its way around the internet a couple of years ago with photos of dead sea birds whose decaying bodies revealed all kinds of crazy human-made junk that the birds had eaten.
Already our image was complicated and I didn’t want another layer to visually clutter the piece. So I decided to include simply the outlines of two sets of embracing hands bordered in yellow, an image I had used in some past work to represent interpersonal support. Bringing women artists from across the state together to support each other as artists was one of the goals of the entire “Art Lives!” project. I felt that this goal had taken hold in our collaboration and I wanted to show this with the image of embracing hands.
Stage 4 – Erika:
As with the partner exchange being mailed back and forth, weekly, seeing the slip of paper in the PO box alerting me to a package became an exciting part of the process. This time, in seeing the interlocking and overlapping hands, seeming to strengthen and surround the lil’ bird in the center of the image, I thought about the cycles, the circles of life and death, inspiration and struggle, that were recurring themes in the process.
I added a swirling, emerging set of forms, derived from the same Christmas exploration as the Salton Sea bird. Leonard Knight, a visionary artist working in a destitute and desperate area of the California desert, has created a colorful, playful, powerful mountain in the midst of this hard place – a multicolored mountain of adobe and castoffs and paint. The bird forms used in Art Lives! come from the millions of soaring birds that pepper the mountain, appearing in every surface of Leonard’s work. Their simple innocence of flight, and the marriage of bird-yet-human form seemed to be a connector for the hands and birds in the collaboration, as well as bringing the life/death cycle to the desiccated bird form from Stage 2.
Stage 5 – Lora:
At this point we evaluated our project over the phone and decided that it was at a comfortable stopping point. And our time was up. I liked the way that Erika’s energetic birds-in-robes (maybe even in bathrobes) seemed to come from death and encircle the baby bird giving the whole piece a sense of regeneration. I added some light blue marks into these robed beings to make a visual connection to the original baby bird. It was also time now to glue down “little guy,” a dead baby bird that Erika had found somewhere and painted blue, that we had mailed back and forth a couple of times for contemplation. The real baby bird added something visceral and tangible to the work.
We agreed that I would mount this piece and that Erika would bring our Brownback- collaboration to its conclusion. After casting about for how to mount it (frame it? stretch it?), I decided to simply paint a solid piece of plywood and glue the canvas to the board with acrylic gel medium. I’ll spare you the details of my various mounting missteps and simply note that I am pleased with how the piece came out, and I like the way the canvas is set off visually by the black and stippled background.
What should the city do with “This Green Space” — the open lot on 9th and New Hampshire beside the Lawrence Arts Center? A recent exhibit at the Lawrence Percolator put that question to the public. My response: build a playground! On Tuesday, April 27, a procession of Percolator members and volunteers took a model of the hotel proposed for that spot to City Hall, illustrating its large size in relation to other buildings and advocating for alternatives.