SOLO ART SHOW 2022: "TRUNK, LIMB, WATER, BLOOD"_33 years of environmental artwork > Solo Show_paintings in the gallery main room

Solo show artist statement

Re-perceiving the world is one of the functions of art. I began painting in the 1970’s, a tumultuous period that posed large questions. Many of the challenges now facing us were identified by the mid-20th century-- pollution, human over-population, loss of habitat, species extinctions, societal inequities, the certainty of climate change—the list is extensive. Where to begin? Change begins with re-perception, and re-valuation. There is no roadmap; we start from wherever we are and slowly build our lives. Change is essential to survival.

The basic tenets of my worldview were first explored in my bodies of work Trunk, Limb and Body, Earth, utilizing visual metaphors for the Human-Earth connection, understanding our bodies as analogous to the workings of the natural world. This is an indigenous mode of understanding. Our limbs and trunks are analogous to the bodies of trees.
Our blood is analogous to the streams and rivers that nurture all plant and animal life.

My first shocked awareness of frighteningly enormous human-caused environmental destruction came during a 1980’s flight over Oregon on the way to Seattle, Washington. The vast clear-cutting of forests was obvious. Once on the ground, seeing the scraggly plantations of seedlings for the logging industry revealed the totally inadequate effort at reforestation.
Shad-o-Nine Forest was the resultant painting; my long-running series Truncated Landscape was the resultant body of work. Other paintings such as Miasma additionally explore the related topic of the natural world versus human control and exploitation; the white surveyor’s lines in the painting are symbolic of human-created false order. Unsustainable exploitation is rooted in a deep misunderstanding of how the natural world works. The result? We are creating dead landscapes and rising oceans.

Part of the human brain (located in the left temporal lobe and called by some “The Explainer”-- I call it “The Confabulator”) compulsively makes up stories, explaining the world to ourselves in a constant stream of chatter; these are themes I have used in prior installations and in recent paintings such as Quo Vadis. Humans are immensely adept at making up stories and justifying the unjustifiable. The current theme of sustainability in our relationship to Earth will require a deep re-ordering of our understanding of ourselves and of our planet. This is a very positive change, a new and better story about who we are and what we need to survive.

The most recent paintings in this show are forest paintings—capturing recent conceptual as well as scientific understandings of the connections between mycorrhizal fungus and tree roots. Far from isolated, trees in a healthy forest are interconnected by lines of communication and shared nutrients. We too are heir to complex ecological systems. Learning how to live sustainably will be a high adventure in re-thinking our priorities, re-connecting with Earth and our fellow earthlings. Complexity, disorder within order, respect for our fellow animals and for all the messy processes of life-- these new goals and understandings can be part of a fulfilling and meaningful future.