11.28.2009

ESPP Blog

I wanted to let you all know about a new blog that I am writing, with friend and collaborator (in all sorts of endeavors involving art, nature, activism and witchcraft and mischief-making in general), Molly Schafer. Our new blog is associated with our project, that's been getting a lot of press lately (yay!), The Endangered Species Print Project.

The Endangered Species Print Project (ESPP) offers limited-edition art prints of critically endangered species. The number of prints available corresponds with the remaining animal or plant populations.

For example, only 45 Amur Leopards remain in the wild, so for this edition, only 45 prints will ever be made.

A different organization, whose mission is to the ensure the survival of the specie depicted, is chosen for each print. 100% of the sales of ESPP prints are donated to these conservation organizations.
Please go check out and bookmark/follow the ESPP Blog. We'll be posting there frequently about amazing endangered species you've never heard of, biodiversity in the news, and all kinds of incredible facts and stories for those of you who are passionate about the natural world. We'd love it if you'd join us there at EndangeredSpeciesPrintProject.blogspot.com

You can also become a fan of ESPP on Facebook,
here.

Oh, and ESPP prints make great holiday gifts for loved ones! Shameless plug! Art gift plus conservation gift is full of win!

11.26.2009

Eco-Graffiti

I love to see good/innovative street art, so I often peer into hidden alleys and look on old warehouse doors for cool stickers or little paintings in Chicago and when traveling. Sometimes, a work-site fence or ugly underpass is a better venue for a work of art than a pristine gallery wall.

Now, when that art is more than just a spray can throw-up, and has a great message, well that's even better. Bringin' it to the people! Love it.


Below, Milwaukee-based artist Jesse Graves gives us something to think about with his bio-degradable mud graffiti.





Anna Garforth, below, transcribes the first line of a friend's poem with moss she attached to the wall using biodegradable methods. Below, she expounds:

“This is the first in an on-going project, and I have much experimentation to do in terms of how and where I place it. The piece is the first sentence of a verse. The second sentence of the verse will be made and displayed somewhere else around the city [London] in a couple of weeks time, and so on until the whole verse has been transcribed.”



And Edina Todoki, below, gives a softer-edge to the urban landscape with her living moss-graffiti. Oooh, see that turkey with the deer and rabbit? That reminds me that I'm done with the computer for today, and off to have some Tofurkey, with my special vegetarian wild-mushroom gravy!


11.09.2009

...And then do something about it.


Great piece by an unknown creator. Let's post these everywhere.

9.01.2009

Katie Paterson: Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull



Three glacier ice records, played until they melt.
3 litres glacial meltwater, 3 litres silicon, 3 turntables [2007]



Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull, a work by artist Katie Paterson, is a project of a rare and ephemeral loveliness. Something that we transitory viewers, who unable to see/hear the work in person, can only imagine, but that is wonderfully powerful enough, that even in imagining, it pulls at the heart and mind.

The artist describes the project as:

Sound recordings from three glaciers in Iceland, pressed into three records, cast, and frozen with the meltwater from each of these glaciers, and played on three turntables until they completely melt.

The records were played once and now exist as three dvds. The turntables begin playing together, and for the first ten minutes as the needles trace their way around, the sounds from each glacier merge in and out with the sounds the ice itself creates. The needle catches on the last loop, and the records play for nearly two hours, until completely melted.
What a beautiful idea. To me, this is conceptual art at it's rarefied best.

Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull
manages to make a work about climate change, a topic often perceived as overwhelming and of massive scale, an almost visceral experience --- both intimate in feeling and grand in scope. Not much more needs to be said. Just listen to the recording here, and, truly, enjoy.

More of Paterson's thoughtful (and conceptually airtight) work can be seen here.

8.05.2009

Kawano Takeshi

Another mystery solved by the miracles of blog-dom.

Remember that melting polar bear of unknown origins that I posted some time ago? Well, I finally found out who is responsible, and snagged a few more images for you all, thanks to an old friend's blog (we used to go to the same synagogue when we were kids).

Well, why hold back? Here are the other wonderful sculptures: the animals shown are a pair of emperor penguins and a sika deer, by my guess --- and our old friend, the polar bear. I found nice large images for you all, so click them to zoom in.






The sika deer is especially lovely. I was lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time around them last August when I was in Japan. On the island of Miyajima, the deer are particularly acclimated to human contact. In general, I don't advocate the feeding and socialization of wild animals (I saw one deer eat an entire map out of a tourist's pocket), but when you're feeding momoji maple leaves to them, instead of human food, and the most beautiful buck bows his head so that you can touch his warm and velvety antlers, well, that's a chance I can't refuse.

Kawano Takeshi (or Takeshi Kawano, depending on whether you want to anglicize the sur-name placement or not) created these works for the Italian communication research center Fabrica, to call attention to the threats of climate change.

7.29.2009

Kai Lossgott : nothing with skin is blind

the first leaf. Kai Lossgott. 2008. Typewriter on sycamore leaf. Spruce and glass light boxes. 30 x 30 cm. SASOL Art Collection.




sound. Kai Lossgott. 2008. Laser engraving on foxglove leaf. Spruce and glass light boxes. 30 x 30 cm. SASOL Art Collection.




neurotech. Kai Lossgott. 2008. Laser engraving on morning glory leaf. Spruce and glass light boxes. 30 x 30 cm. Private Collection.




Installation view at Gordart Gallery in Melville, South Africa, in April 2008



For South African conceptual artist Kai Lossgott's latest project, 'nothing with skin is blind' he has made minute incisions, punctures and impressions into the tissue of plant leaves to form texts and images which are only visible against the light. Displayed in lightboxes, the leaves gleam. One of the texts makes reference to "the inheritance of light". "Shoot," proclaims another, "in spring his heart / is open as a gun".

Lossgott's work emphasises the shift from an anthropocentric to a biocentric position, from the human-centred to the life-centred. Most of the engravings are continuous line drawings exploring the sensory abilities of the human body. "We have certain features in common with plants," says the artist. "We develop in symmetry, with a form of skin, branches and capillaries containing blood or sap. We both perceive a diurnal and seasonal progression in the body. A plant perceives in the way human skin perceives. It scars, it heals. It remembers."

'Nothing with skin is blind' makes reference to cellular memory and engrams, a postulated biological change in neural tissue that represents a memory. Plant, human or animal, the artist seems to say, our biological processes bear certain similarities. It is through these similarities that Lossgott draws into question the boundaries between different forms of sentient life and where exactly consciousness begins.

'nothing with skin is blind' was first shown at the Gordart Gallery in Melville, South Africa, in April 2008. The work has since been acquired by various corporate collections.

To see more of Kai's work, visit www.kailossgott.com

7.22.2009

The Endangered Species Print Project

Many of you may have wondered where I have been lately. Well among other things, I was getting this little joey out of the pouch (to use the terminology of my fellow artist & collaborator Molly Schafer).

May I present to you, esteemed readers, the Endangered Species Print Project!

The Endangered Species Print Project offers limited edition prints of critically endangered species.

The number of prints available corresponds with the remaining animal or plant populations.

For example, only 30 Amur Leopards remain in the wild, so for this edition, only 30 prints will ever be made.

All proceeds from ESPP are donated to conservation organizations.

A different organization, whose mission is to the ensure the survival of the specie depicted, is chosen for each print.

An example of one of the prints offered on ESPP --- in this case, this is the highly endangered and charming Golden Frog
We are actively looking for ways to promote the project and artists that would like to participate, so please contact me at espp@EndangeredSpeciesPrintProject.com if you're interested in lending a paw...

We have already received major interest from The Center for Biological Diversity, who we'll be collaborating with and from The Sierra Club, who'll be posting about ESPP on their blog and most likely publishing an article on the project this year in SIERRA Magazine. We'll also work with them on a print or series of prints. Very exciting!

4.08.2009

John Pfahl - Early Work

John Pfahl has been making beautiful and often uncanny photographs of evidence of the human hand in the natural world since the 70's. I'll post some of his later work at another time, but for now, I'd like to focus on his early work, which was being made in the early days of the Environmentalist movement. An early series "Altered Landscapes" created from 1974-78 (first three images below) seems to come at the idea of human intervention in the landscape straight on. Throughout his long career, his work continues to explore ways of making pictures that observe the intersections of nature and culture, the natural world and the built environment.


Pfahl's "Power Places" series was created between 1980 and 1984, and documents, in anything but Becher-like neutrality, power plants in their seemingly unlikely and gorgeous surrounds. Though Pfahl selects subject matter like a documentarian, choosing one subject and then making a 'record' of sorts through repetition, I believe that it is his passion for his subjects (and for their beauty) that leads him to make these sumptuous moody framings, and eschew typical documentary disassociation from his subjects.

Below is the artist statement posted on John's site for "Power Places":

I have frequently noticed that the electric power companies have chosen the most picturesque locations in America in which to situate their enormous plants. This is likely due to a need for rivers and waterfalls to propel their turbines, or for lakes and oceans to cool their reactors. It may also attest to the importance placed upon being isolated from large population centers for safety considerations. Whatever the reason, it sometimes seems that there is an almost transcendental connection between power and the natural landscape. Even the names given to the plants conjure up an Arcadian vision of the land: Seabrook, Crystal River, Indian Point, Palo Verde.
For me, power plants in the natural landscape represent only the most extreme example of man’s willful domination over the wilderness. It is the arena where the needs and ambitions of an ever-expanding population collide most forcefully with the finite resources of nature.

It is not without trepidation that I have appropriated the codes of "the Sublime" and "the Picturesque" in my work. After all, serious photographers have spent most of this century trying to expunge such extravagances from their art. The tradition lives on, mostly in calendars and picture postcards. I was challenged to rework and revitalize that which had been so roundly denigrated. However, by making the landscape appear so romantic, would it promote the naïve impression that these power plants were living in blissful harmony with nature? Would my work be co-opted by industry? I needn’t have worried. For the most part, the work has been received in the same spirit as it was intended.

In order to make my observations rise to the metaphoric plane, I deliberately searched out a variety of power sources in addition to nuclear, including fossil fuel, hydro, wind, solar, and geothermal. I felt that concentrating on nuclear power alone would detract from my larger ambitions and reduce the project to a specific political agenda. I gradually learned that the other, supposedly more benign, sources of energy all had their dark sides, that the actual harm done to the environment was at least as disturbing as the potential harm from nuclear mishaps. Familiar dangers seem to get preempted by unfamiliar ones.

There seems to be no easy, black-and-white solution to the environmental dilemma. I have become uncomfortable with reducing the tangle to a generic, ideologically correct version of reality. As Estelle Jussim wrote, it is almost impossible for a single photograph to state both the problem and the solution. I want to make photographs whose very ambiguity provokes thought, rather than cuts it off prematurely. I want to make pictures that work on a more mysterious level, that approach the truth by a more circuitous route.












More of John Pfahl's intriguing work can be found at his website.

And on a more personal note, this last image is of the Pacific Gas and Electric Plant in Morro Bay. I recognize it because my mother grew up in San Luis Obispo, which is just a short way inland from Morro Bay. I have been to this beautiful site many times, and often wondered at the power plant "marring" the view. Morro rock is even larger and more impressive that it appears in Pfahl's photograph, where it seems pushed back by the power plant. It is the last in a chain of nine former volcanoes called the nine sisters that lead from San Luis' Bishop Peak out to the sea. I've climbed Bishop many times with my family, and watched otters and seals swim off the shore of Morro rock. At this time of year the peaks are so beautiful, green with new grass and that gives way to gray jagged rocks, launching from the tops of the hills into the shrouds of low hanging clouds. Their flanks are spattered with the purple of lupine and the neon orange of the native California poppy. San Luis is a vibrant and charming town and wouldn't 'run' without the power from this plant, but it has managed so far to keep a good balance between the natural and the man-made. Farmers outside of town are banding together to keep their land from being developed, and the people of SLO tend to be the sort who would rather walk along a rocky beach than a paved in mall. The nine sisters are ancient and will doubtless remain ages to come, but I think the end of the age of the smokestack and the power plant may be closer at hand.

My grandparents for years have actively worked on the Central Coast against the spread of destructive and unsafe nuclear power, initially trying to block the Diablo Canyon power plant
(I know, great name, right?) from being put in, and then buying land down coast from the plant to protect it from development --- land which they have since given to the Nature Conservancy. The Diablo plant is also run by Pacific Gas and Electric and although it has never had a major issue, it's presence remains a worrying concern for residents who worry about the safety of the plant and its by-products. California has since banned the approval of new nuclear reactors since the late 1970s because of concerns over waste disposal.

As a small child, I remember seeing hand-drawn posters in my grandparents' house from protests, saying "Go Sunny with Solar, NOT Deadly with Nukes" -- and remember similar slogans from bumper stickers on my Grandma's dark blue Volkswagon's Beetle. One wonders what would have happened if we had started trying to develop affordable solar technology in the 70's in earnest and with the government support we are now only beginning to see materialize. Maybe we would not now be having to reinvestigate the use of nuclear power as a last ditch solution in the race to stop climate change.

In any case, as you can probably see, my wonderful grandparents have played a big part in my life as an environmentalist. It's because of people like them, and people like all the other artists, activists and thinkers featured on this blog that we have made as much progress as we have. May we all live to see our goals come to fruition. To borrow another slogan off a hand-drawn poster: "Keep on Truckin!"

This post is dedicated to my passionate, hard-working Grandfather, Bruce Miller II, who strived to see the world with unclouded eyes, and worked his whole life to see justice created, not only for the people on this planet, but for the planet itself. We'll miss you Papa.

3.10.2009

Tom Uttech

I was lucky enough to get to see one of Tom Uttech's stunningly gorgeous paintings (no hyperbole, I was truly stunned by how beautiful it was) in person a couple years ago at the Art Chicago art fair. My friend Molly and I stood in front of it for a good twenty minutes or so and then came back to look at it again before leaving. In the midst of all the commercial, sensational and trend-oriented work at the fair, oh my goodness, it was such a completely different thing altogether, and reminded me why I make art.

I hope you enjoy Tom Uttech's paintings, though little .jpgs online don't compare to seeing in person. Do be sure to click the images to see them larger, though.

No text-based reiteration of this man's obvious deep passion for the natural world is needed. The heavy scented magic of forest oozes over the edges of his handcrafted frames, smelling of mushrooms and decomposing pine needles. Animal observers gaze out at us, confronting us, asking us if we're part of this world or not. Fluttering flocks of birds rush towards the sunset or seem to flee some unseen menace. What is it that they're fleeing? Is that you out there, standing just beyond the ring of the setting sun?...waiting, just beyond the frame?...and if so...do you want to come in?




















If you'd like to read more on Tom Uttech's work, please check out Wunderkammer's friend, Hungry Hyaena, for a great post.

2.17.2009

WWF Strikes Again...

Another clever clever series of adverts from WWF, (that is, the World Wildlife Federation, as opposed to the World Wrestling Federation --- these ads would be a real change of direction for them.) This time their campaign deals with linking the idea of deforestation to species loss.




And another series, below, showing how turtles evolve into soup and leopards into coats...with a little "assistance" from public enemy numero uno.





Good job WWF advert team! Clever and thought provoking ads. Let's hope these are reaching their marks.

2.09.2009

Walton Ford

May I humbly present, the inimitable Walton Ford, a dear favorite of mine. Look closely children, his work is rich and nuanced.

I am resiting the urge to write tons about him. Some other time. Until then enjoy the images, and if you like his work --- Google him!












The following are composites of his work, with details on the sides:







I saved the best for last. Click on the Elephant Bird and the Passenger Pigeons to enlarge to gorgeously detailed high-res images:





Love, love, love his work!