I will be giving an artist talk about the New Earth series at Vernissage Fine Art on January 22, 2018 at 5 pm, at 1953 NW Kearney Street, Portland, OR.
Here are some thoughts on the series which I will be expanding on in my talk.
This series envisions the way that climate change is reshaping our planet and our embodied experience of it.
The shapes in the paintings map newly exposed ground near glaciers. This is land that used to be permanently covered by a glacier that is now uncovered. This new earth is like a wound, or new, delicate skin that has formed over a wound and is now (ready or not) exposed to the world.
I began the series thinking that I was making paintings that might help explicate climate change through sensory experience, make it more real by making it visible. But the more I worked on it, the more I found that these paintings are as much — or more — about confusion as they are about clarity. They are as much about unknowing as they are about knowing. The paintings are presenting visual information gained from scientific sources. To find these shapes, I relied heavily on NASA satellite images and data-based projections. But the visual information is overlaid in such a way as to create difficulty in apprehending any one section or shape. The information swims together into composite shapes, the colors overlapping to form new colors. This reflects the fundamental interconnectedness of all life, all locales, the way that a glacier calving in Greenland causes the ocean to rise in the Marshall Islands.
It also reflects the overwhelming confusion most of us feel in response to climate change. The glut of information available to us often results in feeling flooded and therefore less, rather than more, informed. We’ve been taught to structure information hierarchically, to parse history into nations, time periods. Climate change eradicates those helpful boundaries. There are no limits, no parameters, no political boundaries, no temporal boundaries…
In the words of Roy Scranton, climate change is hard to think about “not only because it’s complex and politically contentious,” but also because “it’s cognitively almost impossible to keep in mind the intricate relationships that tie together an oil well in Venezuela, Siberian permafrost, Saudi F-15s bombing a Yemeni wedding, subsidence along the Jersey Shore, albedo effect near Kangerlussuaq, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the polar vortex, shampoo, California cattle, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, leukemia, plastic, paper, the Sixth Extinction, Zika, and the basic decisions we make every day. … It’s mind-bendingly difficult to connect the dots.”
Yes. And so is it mind-bendingly difficult to extricate one bit of these paintings from any other bits. They are one massive sensory swirl.
But they are a beautiful confusion. These paintings are intentionally beautiful. They are lovely to behold. Welcoming. I made them that way so that we might be willing to feel discomfort of confusion and grief a little longer, allow the complexity and profundity of climate change and the unbearably difficult emotions that its complexity generates to linger. To feel it, at least for a moment. To let it in.