Published Monday, April 2, 2012
By: Bora Mici
VisArts hosts local sustainable art practices and a public fundraising dinner - F.E.A.S.T. - to support emerging ones.
Patterson Clark's limited edition poster for Croydon Creek Nature Center is made of weeds and embodies labor and raw materials. The print will go on sale at the nature center, supporting permanent exhibits or the future removal of invasive species. Courtesy Patterson Clark.
Artists are equipped to serve as effective messengers for environmental and social causes.
That was the consensus of a panel of farmers, scientists, policymakers and artists behind FIELD WORK, an exhibit on art and sustainability on display through April 14 at VisArts.
The artists gathered for a well-attended panel discussion in the Kaplan Gallery on March 24 moderated by local artist, curator and food activist Laura McGough. The discussion included the role of the artist as messenger and instigator, the effects of global capital on labor, the importance of food security and the effects of media on the dissemination of ideas.
Hugh Pocock offered a critique of the art world's potential for insularity, jargon and self-reflectivity.
Lynn Cazabon worked with Patterson Clark on invasive species photographs using his cradle-to-cradle printing materials and highlighted collaboration and interdisciplinarity as the best new trend among artists, scientists and policy makers.
On the art faculty at MICA in Baltimore, Pocock elaborated on how collaboration sews the seeds of change. "Art students are stepping away from image-making and focusing on art practices," he said.
J.J. McCracken, who built an indoor hill and a rainfall calendar with Margaret Boozer, emphasized the role of the artist in "engaging behavioral change."
The conversation also touched on the effects of globalization on the environment and the economy.
"Being an American is cheap," said Pocock, who equated cheap labor with an expendable natural environment.
"We would be driving a lot less if we paid the real price for gasoline and took away the subsidies," he said.
He also warned that Brazilians, Chinese, Russians and Indians are becoming like Americans in their environmental footprint and will expect plentiful and easily-accessible commodities at low prices soon.
Selin Balci expressed doubt that our society would become carbon neutral—using offsets and other practices to achieve a net zero carbon emission—in the next half century. She called for a strategy to unite individuals under the common goal of reducing personal energy consumption.
Margaret Morgan-Hubbard, founder of ECO City Farms, an urban farming nonprofit in Edmonston, Md., recommended composting and warned of the imminent danger of peak soil, which lacks the nutrients that produce quality food.
She and Pocock also discussed the high suicide rates among small farmers in the U.S. and India, where the industrialization model is not sustainable.
When asked by an audience member to define trash or throw-aways, Morgan-Hubbard said that there is no such place as "away." Morgan-Hubbard, who prefers the word "regenerative" over "sustainable," said she hopes we can create a society where what is considered waste becomes part of a cycle.
Clark explained how he creates value out of invasive species by using them to make paper, ink and printing systems, sharing his techniques online.
Focusing on the impact of message, Cazabon lamented the mainstream media's creation of a divisive society and distortion of reality.
Morgan-Hubbard acknowledged that while the media "heightens confrontation," people have more control now than ever over sources and information because of social media and hand-held recording devices.
Harkening back to local strategies, Pocock questioned what would happen if the media simply went away. He highlighted F.E.A.S.T., which stands for Funding Emerging Art with Sustainable Tactics, as an example of people connecting directly through each other rather than through a mechanism. The community fundraising dinner to support sustainable arts followed the panel discussion.
"Our F.E.A.S.T. was a success. We had four dynamic project proposals from the DC/Baltimore region," Susan Main, FIELD WORK's curator, said after the dinner. "The food, by Andre Cavallaro, was locally grown and wild-foraged and delicious."
F.E.A.S.T. guests voted a proposal by Patterson Clark as the winner. Clark will lead volunteers from Rockville’s Croydon Creek Nature Center and members of Rockville's Native Species Network in collecting invasive species on the nature center's grounds on Earth Day, April 22. He will then process the weeds to create a limited edition relief print embodying labor and raw materials.
The print will go on sale at the nature center, supporting permanent exhibits or the future removal of invasive species. Volunteers are invited to attend an introductory class on extracting materials from invasive plants on April 14 at VisArts.
Link to Online Article: rockville.patch.com