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Environmental Impact: Stress, Hope and Transformation
July 18, 2019 @ 5:30 pm - September 7, 2019 @ 5:30 pmFREE
Opening Reception: Thursday, July 18, 5:30 – 8:00pm
Man’s impact on the environment is everywhere. Climate change, over population, pollution, extinction of species, deforestation and the consumption of natural resources are all affecting the planet at an alarming rate. In this sea of existential threats jockeying for attention, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, or worse still, apathetic to the changes which surround us.
This summer, the Artists Archives will host Environmental Impact: Stress, Hope and Transformation, a small group exhibition of Ohio artists whose work seeks to energize, activate, and provide hope concerning the future of our planet. Environmental Impact will focus on the role of artist as activist and include pieces by Keith Berr, Palli Davene Davis, Maggie Denk-Leigh, Gary & Laura Dumm, Barbara Gillette, Tatiana Athena Gracyk, Marty Huehner, Lisa Kenion, Stuart Pearl and Gwen Waight.
Among the works featured in the show are digital prints by artist and environmental activist Keith Berr. Keith Berr is a Cleveland based photographer, known for his razor-sharp compositions which blend commercial and fine art. Over the past 8 years, he has dedicated himself to raising awareness of the destruction of the iconic Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, a site that in some regions, has been whittled down from 7 feet thick to a mere 3 inches. Berr’s “Save the Salt” images feature racers during historic “speed week” and have helped to gain real world support to reverse the salt depletion. Berr explains, “I am working with the hope that the salt flats will continue to exist for generations to come, by using photographs to make statements that can help to change the world.”
Another “artist as activist” included the show is Maggie Denk-Leigh, an assistant professor and Chair of the Print Department at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Denk-Leigh’s masterful prints document single moments in time to call our attention to the larger environmental issues. Her work also emphasizes the role of the individual in the process of global change. Written on a panel of her hand-made lithography art book, Critical Condition: December 2008, is this sage advice. “I have a responsibility to participate in the global warming debate. As an engaged individual, locating, gathering, and comprehending research and terminology on the topic in order to comprehend, is exceedingly easy. However, I find it overwhelming, monumental… What am I ultimately to do? I resolve to respect my community and remain engaged.”
The exhibition also includes the art of Gary & Laura Dumm, a husband and wife collaborative team known for their bold style of “pop-surrealism.” The series on view in Environmental Impact frankly expresses their planetary concerns using images from 20th century horror films. As the Dumm’s describe “We utilize classic movie monsters as our “foils” to create a distancing feature, allowing the viewer to remain initially separated intellectually (but only momentarily) from the ‘monstrous’ actions that we highlight in our paintings.” The Dumm’s also make no bones about their art’s intent. “Consider these works a gentle slap across the face to get you to stop for more than a moment and consider one’s sacred place in this existence. Ours is an activist art… We cannot change your habits, only you can do that. We merely ask: What will you do to help preserve this beautiful earth?”
In addition to sounding the alarm, Environmental Impact also features artwork which provides hope for the healing of the planet. On display in Environmental Impact will be an installation of over 20 photographs by Stuart Pearl which document the former Acacia golf course as it transitions back to its natural state. Beyond their beauty, the work demonstrates the positive effect of community action and the profound ability of the planet to mend.
Pearl, an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist, was recruited by the Cleveland Metroparks to document the reclamation of the land which was purchased by a non-profit conservation fund in 2012. He and his wife Jeanne, who has been instrumental in the project, describe “The original job was to photograph specifically located stake positions. So every spring, summer and fall, we navigate out to 39 stake points…In the beginning it was easier to find the stakes because they were visible. Now as plants and other things start to grow, it is a little more difficult even with using GPS to find them.”
Some other works included in show are striking pastels of suburban sprawl by Barbara Gillette, Palli Davene Davis’ organic, mixed media sculptures, Marty Huehner’s ecology-based ceramics, Gwen Waight’s beach-trash assemblages, nature-inspired bronze reliefs and sculptures by Lisa Kenion, and impactful felted road-kill by fiber artist Tatiana Athena Gracyk.
An opening reception will be held on Thursday, July 18th, 5:30-8:00pm at the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve. The show will continue until September 7th and will feature a variety of free, accompanying programing. On Saturday, August 3rd, 1-3pm, Stuart Pearl & Jeanne Pearl will discuss their Acacia documentation project in Acacia: Environmental Impact. Suburbanites on Safari will be held on Wednesday, August 14th 6:00 – 7:30pm and feature Alex Shaland as he shares his experience exploring and photographing South Africa and Zimbabwe for his recently released book. After the Burn: 50 Years of Progress on Cuyahoga with Judy MacKeigan will be held on Wednesday, August 21st 6:00 – 7:30pm and discuss the triumphant recovery of the Cuyahoga river.