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.

 

“Sound the Climate Alarm” at NOTO ArtsPlace

Two mixed-media collages of mine, Sound the Climate Alarm (at left) and an older piece called Laughing and Crying (below at right) are currently on display in a group exhibit exploring issues related to the environment. The exhibit, titled Terra Verde, features the ceramic work of Eleanor Heimbaugh, and can be viewed at NOTO ArtsPlace in Topeka, during Topeka’s First Friday events on May 1, 2015.

 

Sound the Climate Alarm is an imaginative depiction based on my experience of a significant moment in the movement to tackle climate change. On September 21, 2014, a small group of people in Lawrence, Kansas, gathered for a moment of silence and then tooted party horns, rattled cans of rocks, whooped, hollered and sounded off in any way we could think of to make the loudest noise possible, to “sound the climate alarm,” in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of others at The People’s Climate March in New York City and beyond. Regarding the moment in New York, the New York Times reported,

 

The climax of the march came in the early afternoon. All along the route, crowds had been quieted for a moment of silence. On Avenue of the Americas at 57th Street, there was an eerie silence as marchers raised their arms and looked down.

 

Then at exactly 1 p.m., a whistle pierced the silence, setting off a minute-long cacophony intended as a collective alarm on climate change. There were the beats of the drums and the blaring of horns, but mostly it was whoops and cries of the marchers.

 

At South Park in Lawrence, Kansas, after a simultaneous moment of silence with those in New York, a voluminous sound rang out too. When I first envisioned a collage about that noisy moment, I had wanted the look of the sound to be as big as possible, a visual cacophony. So in the collage I made images of saxophones layered upon bike horns, on top of other horns, and then party blowers. In addition, the repeated words “you and you and you and you” add to the visual confusion and also invite (or implicate) everyone into the meaning of the piece. And yet even with all of that going on, the visual impact is still subtle. The look of the sound is atmospheric and thinly skeletal, a subtlety that happened in the creative process that I decided to keep. And then a bird flew into the piece and I painted it black.

 

Compared to the climate alarm that I heard, my visual expression is low-impact, and yet I am pleased with it. For me its meaning is enhanced hanging in the exhibit beside Laughing and Crying, another colorful collage that I made seven years ago with an image of a person laughing surrounded by insects, birds, and blossoms. The piece depicts strong emotions and expresses how I feel about the environment today. It is the words in the collage, “I laughed so hard I cried” and “I cried so hard I laughed,” that express the emotional contradictions that I feel each day in our rapidly warming world. For example, a gorgeous spring day in the face of climate change can feel like beauty and terror combined: birds, blossoms, and butterflies along with heat, drought, and tornadoes.

 

Even so, Laughing and Crying is primarily a visually joyous piece with an orange bird smack in the middle surrounded by lots of activity, full of hope. Sound the Climate Alarm, by contrast, includes the same bird but this time it is painted black and appears on a background full of sunny-yellow energetic emptiness, a warning color scheme. When I see these two pieces together in the context of an exhibit about environmental concerns the alarm in the one piece is for me reinforced by the joy in the other and again I think of spring in a climate-changed world, a feeling of wonderment that is also full of discontent. How many more beautiful springs will there be before all we have left are summers? In a climate-changed world, what will happen to my son?

 

(The exhibit Terra Verde at NOTO ArtsPlace, 903-5 North Kansas Avenue, Topeka, KS,  features Eleanor Heimbaugh’s clay pieces with additional contributions by James Anthony Martin, Betsy Knabe Roe, Ashley Russell, Nicole Wilson, and Hi Stockwell. The exhibit was curated by Michael Lou Bradley with assistance from Drew Douglas Simons, Fine Art Intern from Washburn University.  View the exhibit during Topeka’s First Friday events on May 1, 2015.)

Exhibit opening Oct. 26, Final Friday, at Do’s Deluxe

Detail of

The Deer of Mesa Verde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please join me for an exhibit opening reception!

I’ve been working hard since I wrote my last blog entry called Beginnings, about the early stages of my creative process and about several new pieces that I was just getting started on. And now that work is complete! I would love for you to see it, the endings, the finished work, and more than just the “details” that I’m showing here, at my exhibit at Do’s Deluxe:

 

Better Angels, a Deer, and a Boat
Collages, mosaics and scratchboard by Lora Jost
Opening Reception on “Final Friday,” October 26, 2012, 6 – 8 pm
At Do’s Deluxe, 416 E. 9th St., Lawrence, KS
Runs Oct. 23 – Nov. 23, 2012,  T-F 11 am -6 pm; Sat 10 am -1 pm

(also see Better angels, a deer, and a boat)

 

Detail of Microburst

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Process detail of Blue Moon