Happy Holidays from ecoartspace . . . .
On the eve of COP15 we ask for your support!
ecoartspace has been operating as a bicoastal nonprofit platform for artists addressing environmental issues since 1999 (founded 1997 in Los Angeles). In our ten years of programming we have curated 38 exhibitions, 70 programs and have worked with over 400 artists. And, we have collaborated with over 140 organizations. To celebrate our achievements as well as raise money for future programs we recently held a benefit auction in San Francisco on December 4th. This event, although short in planning, was well attended and over twenty works of art were sold to help raise funds for projects planned in 2010. Examples include commissioning artists to create site-specific works in the public sphere, an artist residency, development of an archive, and video editing for taped interviews with ecoartists.
There are more works available for purchase which you can view HERE and which can be purchased online through the end of this year, 2009. We invite you to consider either buying a work of art or making a donation of any size to ecoartspace today HERE.
Thanks for your support!
Patricia Watts, founder and west coast curator
Artists who have donated include: Amy Franceschini, Andrea Polli, Fritz Haeg, Craig Roper, Stephen Kaltenbach, Ned Kahn, Kim Abeles, Samantha Fields, Lisa Adams, Kim Stringfellow, Josh Keys, Nils-Udo, Roy Staab, Christopher Kennedy, Mark Andrew Gravel, Gary Brewer, Aline Mare, Alicia Escott, Judith Selby Lang, Vaughn Bell, Basia Irland, Besty Damon, Abigail Doan, Beverly Naidus, Shai Zakai, Lillian Ball, Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao, Mark Brest van Kempen, John Roloff, Ed Morris and Susannah Sayler, Tao Urban, Linda McDonald, Christy Rupp, Karen Reitzel, Philip Krohn, Jorge Bachmann, Kim Anno, Sarah Pedlow, Kathryn Miller and Michael Honer, Marksearch, Aviva Rahmani, Virginia Stearn, Ann Rosenthal, Therese Lahaie, Ruri, Raheleh Zomorodinia, Shan Wells, and Seth Kinmont.
In conjunction with ecoartspace, Miami-based artist Xavier Cortada will present a participatory artwork titled Native Flags and invites everyone attending the Verge Art Fair as well as the general public to collaborate in the creation of the work.
Melting polar sea ice has global political powers clamoring to place their flags over the Arctic to control the Northwest Passage shipping lanes and the petroleum and mineral resources beneath the ice. Cortada developed Native Flags as an eco-art project to engage people globally in a reforestation campaign to prevent the polar regions from melting. At home, participants can also plant a native tree next to Cortada’s green flag and ask their neighbors to do the same. Together, they can help to support the regrowth of the planet’s native tree canopies - one yard at a time.
On June 29th, 2008, Xavier Cortada arrived at the North Pole and planted a green flag to reclaim the landscape for nature. The trip was sponsored by New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) as part of Cortada’s larger 90N project. The work addresses global climate change and included the reinstallation of Cortada’s Longitudinal Installation and Endangered World projects as part of a National Science Foundation Antarctic Artist and Writers residency.
Cortada has created art installations at the Earth's poles to generate awareness about global climate change and has developed participatory art projects to engage communities in local action at points in between. Cortada’s work created during his National Science Foundation Antarctic Residency has been exhibited in museums including: Weather Report, curated by Lucy Lippard at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in 2007, and Envisioning Change, a United Nations Environment Programme-sponsored exhibition which opened in Oslo, Norway in June 2007. Cortada launched the Reclamation Project in 2006 to remind Miami Beach residents and visitors of the island’s origins as a mangrove forest by having over 2500 mangrove seedlings displayed in shop windows across the island. Annually, volunteers plant the seedlings on Biscayne Bay.
Catalina Hotel, 1732 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida
Opening preview reception: Thursday December 3rd, from 6 to 10pm
Friday & Saturday, December 4-5, noon to 8pm
Sunday, December 6th, noon to 6pm
It has been over 20 years since I was in New Mexico. When I considered why this was, I realized that most of the places I've traveled to for art events in the US have been where CAA, AAM, or AFTA conferences usually take place, like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Atlanta, and New York City. I guess a city needs to have at least 1,500 contiguous hotel rooms adjacent to a conference center to host a large conference, which Albuquerque does not have (yet). In general, most people travel to Santa Fe to see the opera, go to galleries and in the last decade to visit Site Santa Fe, an international contemporary art biennial that began in 1995. This is a town that boasts over 250 galleries with under 150,000 residents! With so much focus on the arts, it seems like there should be more of an “art world" presence. Even Lucy Lippard, Nancy Holt, and Bruce Nauman call New Mexico home (out of approximately 1 million people in the entire state). And, it is the home to Walter De Maria’s The Lightening Field.
Last spring I was invited to give a lecture in November at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque by Bill Gilbert, artist, professor and founder of The Land Arts of the American West program (2000). I had seen a call for artists for a LAND/ART New Mexico project in fall 2008 and was curious who all was involved. When the program was formally announced and I saw that they had organized multiple events, exhibitions, site-specific installations, lectures, and plans for a publication, I was very impressed with the scale and proud to be included. The program began in May and will wrap up in November. Over 25 organizations in New Mexico have participated with 516 Arts, Suzanne Barge – Project Coordinator, taking the lead. Formally titled Land Art: Art Nature Community, a collaborative exploration of land-based art in New Mexico, the program has exhibited work by international artists including the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Patrick Dougherty, Andrea Polli (the new Director of the Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media (IFDM) Program at UNM), Eve Andrée Laramée, Erika Blumenfeld and important art and ecology artists from New Mexico including Basia Irland, William Gilbert, and Catherine Harris (recently appointed Art & Ecology professor at UNM). The list of guest speakers included Rebecca Solnit, Nancy Holt, David Abrams, and a performance and discussion with Laurie Anderson, just to name a few. The program was a herculean effort and is to be commended. I would highly suggest getting a copy of the culminating LAND/ART New Mexico book due out in December including an essay by Lucy Lippard. And, add to that list the recently published book Land Arts of the American West documenting the program of the same name by William Gilbert and Chris Taylor.
One of the highlights of my trip was going to The Lightening Field (TLF). It was on my list of things to do for many years and seemed the right time to do it being in New Mexico for the Land Art program. When I arrived into Albuquerque Airport there was a fresh layer of snow on the ground. Driving to TLF from Albuquerque takes about three hours, south and west towards the Arizona border. In the small town of Quemado you sign in at the DIA Foundation office. Here you leave your car and Robert Weathers, TLF manager, drives you out into the middle of nowhere to a WPA era cabin about 45 minutes away. After checking out the rustic chic accommodations (great sheets/towels and Hudson Bay blankets), and getting to know my cabin mates (Stevie Famulari, Assistant Professor at NDSU and environmental artists, and Paul Socolow, a Bay Area de-employed Land Art aficionado), we three ventured out into the field to take a look. This was Stevie’s second trip to TLF and she was well versed how to experience the work. About an hour before sunset she prompted us to get outside (it was around 30 degrees, expecting to drop below 20 at night). As we walked out into the poles the sunlight was shining bright on the stainless steel tips which were not as tall as I had imagine and lighter and more flexible than I would have thought. The rounded tips looked so sculptural and rocketship like. It took a while to get it, but walking inside of the field of poles is when you feel like it is an artwork, not looking at it from the distance like it is an object. It expands the longer you walk inside the poles, it seems to gain another row and another row as the darkness sets in and the setting sun reflects on the poles. We were walking in mud and snow, which was building up on our shoes while noticing rabbit holes and horses hoof prints along the way. It was a full moon, the sky was clear, although hard to see the poles after the sun had set. In the morning as the sun comes up the poles to the west are most visible, in reverse of last night where the eastern portion of the field was most visible at sunset. TLF was installed September – October in 1977. In fact October 31st, the next morning after staying over night was the 32nd anniversary of TLF and the last day of the season for staying over night until next April.
Stainless steel tubing
400 poles, 220 feet apart
5,280 East/West & 3,303 feet North/South
Tallest pole is 26.72 feet, average height is 20.62 feet
A few of the tallest poles have been replaced due to high winds
Each mile long row contains 25 poles
Total weight 38,000 lbs
In 1974 there was a test field in Northern Arizona (later owned by Virginia Dwan and donated to Dia unassembled in 1996). There were 35 stainless tell poles with pointed tips each 18 feet tall and 200 feet apart. The land was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine. It resided there from 1974-76, then was moved.
Robert Weathers has been the caretaker since 1980
Green Sight + Sound: A Benefit for ecoartspace Celebrating Ten Years of Art and Ecology Programs & ME'DI.ATE's Soundwave ((4)) Festival 2010.
Dear Friends and Supporters of ecoartspace:
We are very excited to invite you to our 10 year anniversary celebration in San Francisco!
Silent Auction of small works by over 40 environmental artists including affordable ephemera & signed catalogues just in time for the holidays! Artists include: Amy Franceschini, Andrea Polli, Fritz Haeg, Stephen Kaltenbach, Ned Kahn, Kim Abeles, Samantha Fields, Lisa Adams, Kim Stringfellow, Josh Keys, Nils-Udo, Roy Staab, Christopher Kennedy, Mark Andrew Gravel, Gary Brewer, Judith Selby Lang, Vaughn Bell, Basia Irland, Besty Damon, Lea Redmond, Abigail Doan, Beverly Nadius, Shai Zakai, Lillian Ball, Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao, Mark Brest van Kempen, John Roloff, Ed Morris and Susannah Sayler, Linda McDonald, Christy Rupp, Karen Reitzel, Philip Krohn, Jorge Bachmann, Kim Anno, Sarah Pedlow, Kathryn Miller, Aviva Rahmani, Ann Rosenthal, Therese Lahaie, Ruri, and more (to be updated).
Bay Area foodies unite! We will be serving Wine-Appetizers-Sweets by Terra Savia, Bi-Rite, Marin French Cheese Company, Paulding & Company Kitchen, Woodbridge Winery and other Bay Area purveyors.
And, special live performances by Bay Area's favorite singer/song-writer and Soundwave artist Odessa Chen, Danny Paul Grody (Tarentel, The Drift), electroacoustic sensations Myrmyr and special guests.
Mina Dresden Gallery
312 Valencia @ 14th street
San Francisco, California
Friday, December 4th, 2009 6pm-9pm
Live Performances at 7pm
Art Auction Preview:
Friday December 4th 12pm-4pm
Tickets are $30 in advance and $50 for two, $35 at the door
IMPORTANT INFO: If you can not attend this event please show your support for ecoartspace by giving a tax-deductible donation through our fiscal sponsor online HERE (be sure to type ecoartspace in the project box). $20, $30, $50 or more would help us to continue our ongoing art and ecology programs in 2010. Or if you prefer to use PayPal use this link below:
Since 1999, Patricia Watts and Amy Lipton of ecoartspace, have provided a platform for artists who address environmental issues internationally. During this time they have organized 38 exhibitions, over 70 programs, and have worked with over 400 artists. Their total budget has been almost $800,000, of which $280,000 was paid directly to artists for site-specific installations. Their programs have been viewed or attended by more than 200,000 people, and they have collaborated/partnered with over 140 organizations.
SOUNDWAVE ((4)): GREEN SOUND 2010
The fourth season of Soundwave, happening throughout Summer 2010, will be the most adventurous yet. Artists, composers and musicians will explore our sonic connections to the environment investigating the wonders of natural world, and examining environmental responsibility and sustainability through awe-inspiring performances and installations.
Founded in 1998, ME'DI.ATE is a San Francisco-based art organization creating experiential art through products, exhibitions, and live events. ME’DI.ATE is the mastermind behind the acclaimed Soundwave, the most innovative sound/art/music festival in the Bay Area. Bringing together some of the most compelling sound purveyors from across the sonic spectrum, Soundwave produces experiential performances that challenge the way you see and hear sound and music.
Eva Bakkeslett's Alchemy: The Poetry of Bread
A poetic evocation on the alchemy of bread brings the act of baking the most basic of staples, into a high art form.
Jacinto Astiazaran & Fritz Haeg
The Story of Mannahatta and the Lenape Edible Estate: Manhattan
As told by Eric Sanderson of the Mannahatta Project.
Ever wondered what New York looked like before it was a city? Welcome to Mannahatta, 1609. Now, after nearly a decade of research, the Mannahatta Project at the Wildlife Conservation Society has un-covered the original ecology of Manhattan.
Lenore Malen & The New Society for Universal Harmony
I Am The Animal That I Am
Narrates the grave threat to the bee population including "colony collapse disorder" from the perspective of 6 Hudson Valley Beekeepers.
ecoartspace is located at 53 Mercer St. between Broome and Grand - 3rd floor in New York City.
The season began with the opening of Down to Earth: Artists Create Edible Landscapes at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia on September 12th. This exhibition highlights the growing focus and emergence of “green” principles and sustainability in relationship to food, art, design and agriculture. The exhibition includes six artists or artist teams who created socially engaging interventions in the landscape. Their works are related to growing indigenous food, the healing properties of plants, sustainable agriculture, water irrigation, permaculture planting, recycling of materials and deer grazing, all creating an aesthetic and cultural link between art and cultivation of the land.
Several current popular books and films about food’s relation to sustainability have helped to propel a new generation of public interest in issues related to organic growing, heirloom seeds, eating and purchasing local food, farmers markets and back yard vegetable gardens. Also being investigated in the media are the negative consequences of monoculture planting and factory farming practices, and the inhumane treatment of livestock in industrial agriculture. The economic downturn and rising fuel and grocery prices have also motivated a new focus on sustainability in relation to food.
Many artists have been engaging these important ecological and social issues in the past few years. The Schuylkill Center presented a unique opportunity for artists to interact with the landscape, with its preserved open space and agricultural history. Down to Earth at Brolo Farm, is presented at an abandoned farm site and each of the artists has created a large-scale outdoor work on this four-acre location.
Making artworks with living components such as plants and water takes a vastly different approach than creating or placing traditional objects in the landscape. These art projects are dependent on the unpredictability of weather and forces of nature including animals and insects. The implication of potential damage and risks involved in the works surviving have forced the artists to acknowledge that like gardeners, they are merely collaborators with nature. They took on this complex challenge with skill and with the help of many staff members, volunteers, students and friends.
After six months of hard work on the projects, constant worry about the weather and water resources being shared, we opened to a day long gathering of at least 200 people. The weather forecast was rain for the entire day – but miraculously the rain held off until just after 6pm when the opening was over. I led a tour group of each project beginning with Joan Bankemper’s Willa, A Medicinal Herb Garden. Joan spoke about the significance of herbs historically, how they were used as medicine by healers and midwives for hundreds of years but were discouraged in the past century due to modern medicine frowning on the practice. She made the timely connection to our present day health care crisis by encouraging visitors to take a preventative approach to wellness by learning about the healing properties of plants and distributed an informational color brochure she had produced for the occasion. Titled Willa after the Paleolithic fertility figure Venus of Willendorf, Joan’s fifty-ft. garden is modeled after this archaic form. Contained inside the figure are seven circles representing Hindu chakras or energy centers from root to crown. Each chakra is planted with herbs and flowers that can respectively lead to healing for that area of the body. (Joan’s printed handout makes the connection of each chakra in the human body – and a list of associated healing plants.) The overall design of this project also reflects on the 1970’s work of Feminist artist Ana Mendieta, well known for her Silueta series of figurative Earthworks which involved carving her imprint directly into mud or sand.
Next on the tour was Stacy Levy speaking about her sculptural fence installation Kept Out. This work provides an opportunity to investigate how the deer alter their own edible landscape. The deer's meal choices affect the growth of the forest and the field: their grazing results in fewer seedlings of native tree, shrub and herbaceous species. Due to human influence, deer populations are out of balance and destroying the sustainability of their own food sources in the field and forests. Stacy created two versions of this piece, the first was a prototype on her own woodland site in mid-PA where she worked out the pattern of criss-crossing tall blue metal poles as a deer fence. Stacy spoke about the ways in which deer are ravaging the landscape, eating everything in sight – the end result of which means that far fewer trees ever make it to maturity beyond deer grazing height. This has serious implications and consequences for the future of unprotected woodlands and forests. Since we no longer have large predators for the deer (other than humans in cars and deer hunters in season), they are over-populating. Stacy brought up the fact that we all love to see deer in the landscape and equate seeing them with “nature”, but the irony being that the deer by consuming all their resources will leave nothing left to eat for future deer generations (sound familiar?). The larger unanswered question is what to do about the continuing growth in human population that leaves less and less room for deer and other wild species to roam and eat.
Following Stacy was a water leveling demonstration by artist Knox Cummin. His functioning rainwater collection sculpture, titled Not Drain Away provided the water for Ann Rosenthal and Steffi Domike’s American Roots Garden. The three artists decided to collaborate early on in the project, which worked out beneficially for all. Since it rained for a solid month in June, the garden thrived but later in dry, hot August we had to resort to hand watering. Not Drain Away takes the shape of a twenty-ft. square room and is built out of wood attached to the roof of the existing farmhouse. It is complete with rain barrels, piping and an irrigation system. The water collection system is gravity powered and uses no external energy to operate. By collecting rainwater, there is no additional load on the municipal water supply or well water. This elaborate sculpture combines craftsmanship, art and design, proving the case that art can be both functional and aesthetic.
Contained inside the structure of Not Drain Away, is a vegetable garden by Ann Rosenthal and Steffi Domike (Pittsburgh, PA). Titled An American Roots Garden, it includes foods common to early America, including Native American crops and those brought by settlers and immigrants. These include corn, squash, and beans (commonly known as the "three sisters"), a variety of potatoes and tomatoes, beets, carrots, sunflowers, marigolds, and herbs. The garden is laid out in a quilt-type pattern that provides a structure to consider the evolution and story of five staple crops and how food cultures are lost or preserved. Ann and Steffi harvested carrots, beets, corn and potatoes the day of the opening. Their garden reached its peak in August both in terms of abundance and beauty. The artists spoke about reconnecting to the past in the use of a “kitchen garden” and stressed the importance of holding on to our individual cultural histories in relationship to passed down food traditions and family recipes. The artists also created a kid’s placemat to hand out at the opening with a word puzzle and kitchen garden quilt for coloring.
We then moved the tour out to a large former crop field on the site to speak with artist Susan Leibovitz Steiman. Her garden Urban Defense was a tour de force collaborative project. Susan lives in the S.F. Bay Area, so her project involved local participation from friends, volunteers and student assistants Susan hired from the Philadelphia University Sustainable Design Program, led by Fern Gookin. Susan spoke about creating the garden with techniques of permaculture, a planting method that mimics nature’s principle of combining diverse compatible plantings that conserve labor, water and soil, to produce abundant healthy food. The forty-ft. square installation has at its heart a five-sided permaculture urban forest orchard, contained within a raised bed structure built using locally culled household salvage. The title Urban Defense and the form of the installation refer to Philadelphia’s myriad columned public buildings, and to the political strength of the U.S. Defense Department’s Pentagon. Ecologically, Urban Defense honors another American symbol, the apple—its five seed chambers of diverse seeds can create an entire sustainable food forest. Urban Defense includes more than a dozen varieties of trees, perennial bushes and annuals whose fruits have been shared and donated to local food banks.
The last stop on the far side of the same field was to Simon Draper’s Habitat for Artists Collective. The work titled Drawn to / Drawn from the Garden consists of a mini art studio, potting shed, and seven vegetable/flower gardens. The collective of artists in this project included Todd Sargood, Odin Cathcart, Jeff Bailey and Cathy Lebowitz. Draper spoke about his childhood experience of gardening with his father and how that joint activity created a neutral space for otherwise difficult communication. He also related how his interest in shed-making stems from that same period of time, where he saw how the backyard shed could become a place for contemplation, tinkering and creative projects. The HFA Collective has to this date constructed 20 different habitats (sheds) in various sites around the Hudson Valley, NYC and Philadelphia. This project aims to encourage backyard food growing, recycling of materials and the re-purposing of abandoned sites for gardening. Local artists and school groups were invited to collaborate and to adopt two of the garden plots, which provided opportunities for engagement, the shed siding consists of art panels by school children.
Down to Earth: Artists Create Edible Landscapes is on view in Philadelphia through November 28th. Read a review of the exhibition in the Philadelphia Inquirer by art critic Edith Newhall here.
In order to bring the creativity and huge amount of labor involved in making Down to Earth available to a New York audience, a documentation form of the exhibition opened at ecoartspace in NYC on October 3rd. The same artists from the Philadelphia show are exhibiting photographs, prints and an herbal apothecary by Joan Bankemper. Also included are several additional artists’ projects, a video by Eva Bakkeslett, Alchemy: The Poetics of Bread; a video by Jacinto Astiazaran & Fritz Haeg, The Story of Manahatta and the Lenape Edible Estate Manhattan; a film by Lenore Malen & The New Society for Universal Harmony, I Am The Animal That I Am; Eve Mosher’s mini green roof modules, Seeding the City; Andrea Polli & Chuck Varga’s, Hello Weather! an outdoor data collecting weather station; Andrea Reynosa & Kevin Vertrees, Sky Dog Projects, time lapse videos of corn and hops on their farm with a hops pillow by Donna Sharrett, and Christy Rupp’s food packaging, New Labels for Genetically Engineered Food.
The exhibition will remain on view at the ecoartspace NYC office through November 21st at 53 Mercer Street in Soho, NY. Hours are Saturdays 12 – 6pm and by appointment.
On Sunday October 4th, performance artist Chere Krakovsky presented her work, Mothers and Daughters at Solar One in the Habitat for Artists shed that has been situated there since July 10th when it left ecoartspace on Mercer Street.
Chere’s performance explored how one generation offers its lessons to the next, both learned and unspoken. In the first part of the performance she honored her Eastern European grandmother by washing her laundry by hand the same way her grandmother did a century ago. She then hung it out to dry on a clothes line connected to the Habitat/shed with the East River as background. Following this Chere invited her 86 year old mother, Dorothy Krakovsky to join her in the shed to teach Chere to sew by hand, which she in turn was taught to do by Chere’s grandmother. In this piece the everyday and the creative co-exist. The shed served as the home location for the everyday tasks of doing laundry and sewing. Visitors were invited to participate in the sewing lesson or share in conversation about what has been offered/handed down to them from their mothers. The artwork of mother, daughter and grandmother filled the interior of the habitat during the performance. Chere’s performance work revolves around her ever-changing notions of home, it’s location and meaning.
Today is Blog Action Day for Climate Change. Over 10,000 bloggers from 155 different countries will be uploading posts to spread the word about how our world is changing. For our contribution ecoartspace decided to highlight the Green Patriot Poster project initiated by the Canary Project founder Ed Morris early this year. This is an ongoing campaign centered on the development of posters that encourage all U.S. citizens to build a sustainable economy. These posters can be general (“We Can Do It!”) or can promote a specific sustainability action. You can vote for your favorite posters, create your own posters, distribute posters, or partner with them to develop a campaign for your specific cause. This is an accessible way to spread the word to large amounts of people.
ecoartspace gives Green Patriot's a thumbs up!
HELP by etling
Imagine if everyone in the world lived in one dorm room, and we didn't yet have the means to travel to the next room over... And everyone wouldn't stop smoking. Welcome to Apartment Earth.
ecoartspace NYC - amy lipton
September 24, 2009
Community Roundtable on Habitat for Artists Project
Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art
State University of New York - New Paltz
October 3, 2009
Q and A with Habitat for Artists Collective
Solar One (East River at 23rd St)
New York, NY
October 10, 2009
Strategies for Success in Challenging Times
International Sculpture Center Annual Conference
Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ
ecoartspace WEST - patricia watts
September 23, 2009
Art & Ecology: An International Perspective
Laney College, Oakland
September 29, 2009
Art & Ecology: An International Perspective
School of Art and Design
San Jose State University, California
Tuesday Night Lecture Series
November 2, 2009
Art & Ecology: An International Perspective
Land Art: Art Nature Community
University of New Mexico
Modesto Junior College
Civic Engagement Project (CEP)
Film and Lecture Series
Edward Burtynsky, Manufactured Landscapes
November 17, 2009
Art & Ecology in the Santa Monica Mountains
Culture in the Canyon: Chautauqua Series
Temescal Gateway Park, Pacific Palisades, California
Mountains Conservancy of the Santa Monica Mountains
November 24th, 2009
Hybrid Fields: Food and Art
Southern California Institute of Architecture
Community Design Program
Watts Cooking: Imagining an Accessible Food Infrastructure
January 28, 2010
Environmental Aesthetics: Artists Addressing Environmental Issues
Epiphany West 2010 Visualizing Sustainability Conference
Co-sponsored by Church Divinity School of the Pacific and
Center for the Arts, Religion and Education
Last month I was invited to participate on an artist selection panel for the Grand Canyon South Rim Artist-in-Residency Program. This AIR program is only a couple years old and was inspired by the North Rim program, which began six years ago and has placed traditional representational painters in residence. The new AIR coordinator for the South Rim program, Rene Westbrook, is a contemporary artist and member of The Caravan Project, which is a collaborative of artists who have performed mobile art shows inside and outside trailers since 1992. Westbrook was interested to bring a more diverse range of artistic media to the program this year, a goal that was apparently supported by the other panelists including a local artist, executive director of a chamber orchestra, a publications specialist for the park, and current artist in residence. Together we selected 12 artists (out of 62) who have been invited to come to the Grand Canyon between October 2009 and September 2010 and spend up to three weeks creating new work. Each of these artists will be asked to donate one piece inspired by the residency to become part of the NPS Collection.
Another important goal was to select artists who showed an interest in addressing one or all of the Park’s Interpretive Themes, including but not limited to: Water, Geology, Biology, Conservation, Inspiration, and Native American Connections. Westbrook felt that since recent programming at NPS has encouraged dialogue around the advocacy of environmental issues like climate change, water rights and indigenous people’s rights that it would be relevant to include more conceptual or content driven art that may have previously been considered too political. This is the new wave of Parks management, which I understand the superintendent at the Grand Canyon has embraced.
Of the 12 artists selected there were two landscape painters (Susan Klein and David Alexander), three photographers (Kim Henkel, Michael Miner and Leah Sobsey), a jeweler (Erica Stankwytch Bailey), a writer (Dana Wildsmith), a yodeler (Randy Erwin – Cowboy Randy), and four multimedia artists (Bridget Batch and Kevin Cooley, Andrew Demirjian, and Aaron Ximm). Kim Henkel proposed to do a pinhole photography workshop with visitors at the park and Leah Sobsey solar prints of plants, which looked like they would be a valuable addition to the NPS collection. And, believe it or not, I was quite taken with the potential of Cowboy Randy’s proposal to create new yodels that reflect the Park Themes! Bridget Batch and Kevin Cooley, a husband/wife collaboration proposed to engage the Native American population in a photo/film documentary, a very contemporary ethnographic portrait.
Of particular interest to me were two sound artists, Andrew Demirjian and Aaron Ximm, who included proposals to do audio postcards from the Grand Canyon. There is such potential to engage the elemental and architectural features at this site that these more conceptual artists, I believe, will be better able to actively engage a captive audience with temporal interventions in the landscape. Also, this more media driven work can also be experienced online for those who cannot make the trip to the “big ditch” as the locals call it. Both artists will be in residence during the peak tourist season at the Park next year.
Some interesting factoids about the Grand Canyon:
• Grand Canyon National Park is located in of one the cleanest remaining pockets of air in the United States and is a Class I area.
• Legislation passed in 1975 to enlarge Grand Canyon National Park contained the first-ever clause mandating the federal protection of “natural quiet and experience.”
• Although Grand Canyon reveals rocks ranging from 270 to 1,840 million (1.8 billion) years old, the landscape is relatively young, having been sculpted in just the last 5-6 million years.
• The vastness of its landscape—an average depth of 4,000 feet, width of 10-18 miles, and a length of 277 river miles—contains a seemingly infinite system of colorfully sculptured plateaus, mesas, buttes, cliffs, slopes, ridgelines, and side canyons.
• The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Grand Canyon National Park as a World Heritage Site in 1979, recognizing it as a place of universal value under natural world heritage site criteria to be preserved as a part of the heritage of all peoples.
The South Rim National Park gets approximately 4.5 million visitors a year, mostly from Europe and Asia. It definitely felt like visiting a foreign country.
From Left to Right (AIR Jurors): Rene Westbrook, Burt Harclerode, Patricia Watts, Kim Buchheit, Richard Chalfant, and Tom Pittenger.
Art from Top to Bottom: Detail of book cover The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World by Bert Plantenga which includes Cowboy Randy, Solar print by Leah Sobsey, Pinhole photograph by Kim Henkel, Sound installation by Aaron Ximm (the walls are listening).
Three weeks since my last visit to see the progress of the artists' gardens in Philadelphia at the Schuylkill Center and the new growth was lush and overflowing. Philly has a warmer and more humid climate than where I live in the Hudson Valley, and I was shocked to see the rapid growth in comparison to my home garden that has produced very little in the way of veggies with the exception of cucumbers and lettuce (plants that don't mind wet and cold conditions). My tomato plants got early blight, but the red & yellow heirlooms planted in the American Roots Garden by Ann Rosenthal and Steffi Domike were healthy and delicious if not a bit overgrown! The rain barrel water collection system by Knox Cummin has done a great job, but on this visit the barrels seemed to be clogged and we had to resort to the hose off of the farmhouse. Ann did a kids' camp workshop in July at SCEE to create a series of art banners depicting the various plants that came out beautifully and are now hung on the tubing for the irrigation system above the garden.
Water issues have been the biggest area of troubleshooting during the course of these projects and the artists have all had to be ingenious at working out ways for the gardens to be watered in their absence. Urban Defense by Susan Leibovitz Steinman is being watered from the house spigot, five hundred feet away with a soaker hose and timer system installed by Susan's assistants Fern Gookin and Scott Torr from Philadelphia University's Sustainable Design Grad program. Since Susan lives in Berkeley, CA, maintaining her garden has had its logistical challenges. However, Susan has a great team in place and with added gardening expertise and help by her close friend Fredda London, a Philly resident - things are looking great. Many of the plants in both of these gardens are ready to harvest and will go to local organizations that distribute fresh produce to the needy.
Joan Bankemper's medicinal herb garden, Willa, was thriving and the soaker hose system she buried throughout her 7 chakra beds seemed to be in good working order. The tobacco plants in particular were enormous and had beautiful flowers, something I had never seen on these plants in fields that are not allowed to flower. In the photo to the left Joan is harvesting some flowering hyssop. There will be a complete list of all the herbs planted in each chakra and their medicinal benefits to those areas of the body available for the public at the opening.
Simon Draper and Todd Sargood of HFA were working when I arrived mid afternoon in the hot, sticky August weather. They looked wilted but happy. Todd was adding some recent art tiles as siding to the shed. These tiles have been painted by kids, campers at SCEE and from local schools. They will continue to make more art tiles to be added before the opening day. The 7 garden beds around the shed were tended, weeded, and in some cases re-planted, as the earlier part of this summer was rainy and somewhat cooler than normal. Not great conditions for seeds to thrive.
Everyone will be back to finish up the first week of September in time for the opening day on the 12th. August 30th will be a volunteer day organized by Zoe Cohen and Rachel Dobkin, managers of the SCEE environmental art program. The gardens will be harvested, re-mulched, pruned and mowed around the edges to be ready for public viewing. A gallery exhibition related to all of the projects will be installed indoors at the Center. Stay tuned for a report then.
Overall, it was a well attended exhibition with a high number of people who had not planned to see an art exhibition when they arrived to visit the Marin French Cheese Company. Of the 42 days the gallery was open to the public, attendance was approximately 70 persons per day. Outdoors there was high traffic flow, with up to 10,000 people over the three-month period. There was also a one-week residency, the very first at this site. And, a total of four events including an opening reception, curator’s tour & tasting, artist talk and closing reception. The owners of the cheese factory were closely involved and really appreciated the number of younger conceptual artists included. Our goal was to show work that visitors could relate to with regard to subject matter and that was a new aesthetic than they might expect to see in a local gallery (no landscape paintings or traditional sculpture). The consensus was that the works were engaging and that visitors were surprised to find conceptual art at their local gathering site.
Some highlights include:
topsoil, rain and pond water all collected on the cheese factory grounds, and acrylic paint
Photo ©2009 Jeannie O'Connor
Philip Krohn with Paul Reffell
The Kindling (2009)
11’ X 8’ diameter
misc firewood (cypress, douglas fir, eucalyptus, monterey pine)
Mark Brest van Kempen
Lineaus Line, 2009
approximately 600 ft (500 tags)
Shipped: Global Terroir (2009)
58” X 130”
4 inkjet prints/sound component
Lewis de Soto
APPELLATION: Napa 4 (10.12.07)
K3 inks on paper
26" x 77.5” X 2"
Courtesy Brian Gross Fine Art, San Francisco
(at the top of the post):
Emily Payne Haven (2009) site-specific installation - clay, wax, linen thread