Sunday, March 12, 2017

"No Silent Springs" (Rachel Carson)"

“But man is a part of nature, 
and his war against nature 
is inevitably a war against himself....”
― Rachel Carson

My tribute to Rachel Carson and her book, 'Silent Spring'

"No Silent Springs
(Rachel Carson)"

I recently watched the PBS 'American Experience episode' regarding the author and naturalist, Rachel Carson, about her life's work.  While I knew a little about her background, the documentary went into great detail and was very educational.  I learned much from watching it, and also found myself highly moved. 

Oils on a 7x9 wood plaque

In an era when Nature was seen as a thing necessary for Mankind to dominate, exploit, intercept and control, Rachel Carson's message firmly challenged that prevailing Mid-Century notion.  While the attitudes of the time reflected a belief that humans were somehow separate and apart from the natural world, Carson argued instead that mankind is actually an integral part of the dynamism of Nature, and that our human activities potentially have more far-reaching repercussions and impacts than we might even be aware of.  Her book, 'Silent Spring', specifically questioned the widespread use of chemical pesticides, while calling attention to the negative impacts such wholesale application had upon the environment and animal life -- and ultimately, upon ourselves.   'Silent Spring' became a best seller and brought much public awareness to the concept of environmental conservation.  Her influential writings and moving testimonies helped awaken a global cause, and are generally credited with giving rise and advancement to our modern environmental movement.

I was able to use a small wooden plaque purchased 2nd-hand from our local I.D.E.A. Store

As such, when looking for a subject to paint for this month's EBSQ "Awakening" online exhibit, Rachel Carson came to mind immediately.  Her influence awakened an entire generation. The title of the book, 'Silent Spring', refers to the scenario of an absence of song birds, as they perish en mass from heavy pesticide exposure. Robins in particular are susceptible to the effects of industrial chemicals and pesticides building up in the food chain -- so a robin seemed a likely symbol.  There is also the matter of Rachel Carson having died relatively young (in her 50's) from aggressive breast cancer.  As a survivor of breast cancer myself, I hated to learn about how she likely suffered in her illness. Oncology treatments were rudimentary at best back then, harsh and commonly ineffective, and doctors often patronizing.   We'll never know if Rachel Carson's own cancer was in any way environmentally triggered.  But what if is was...?  Then somehow her message feels even all-the-more weighty to me. 

On my easel in progress....

And so, while I'm entering this piece into the March EBSQ "Awareness" online art exhibit, I was also able to hang it in a local, themed art show this month, entitled "Resist".  What comes to mind when you think of Resistance....?  Rachel Carson did go on to experience a lot of negative fall-out from her writings and opinions -- many folks, including those in the farming industry and other corporate interests, looked to discredit her work and smear her reputation.   They resisted her environmental message -- while she in turn intrepidly resisted their public pressure and attempts to keep her quiet.....

Here's a photo of my entry, "No Silent Springs (Rachel Carson)" hanging in the local "Resist" show....

My Rachel Carson tribute hanging in the Resist show at our local Independent Media Center

RIP, Rachel Carson.  
Here's to no silent springs.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My White/Orwell Tribute for EBSQ's February Online Exhibit: 'Opposites'

"Animal Web": oils upon a 10x12 handmade canvas using a re-purposed frame

Yesterday was the last day of the month of February, which meant the deadline for the EBSQ online exhibit, "Opposites".  I entered last night with this little piece, a tribute to two much beloved pig story authors, EB White, and George Orwell.  I've entitled it, "Animal Web", and it is my interpretation of the theme, 'Opposites'....

EB White and George Orwell, With Their Pigs.

The following is my entry's artist statement over at EBSQ:

"Animal Web: A Tribute To Authors,
EB White and George Orwell":

My entry for the February 2017 EBSQ online "Opposites" exhibit features a whimsical little fantasy piece painted in loving tribute to two of my favorite authors:  EB White, of 'Charlotte's Web', and George Orwell, of "Animal Farm".  Both authors were talented, highly esteemed, caucasion, of similar age (born only a few years apart), and writers of fiction. Both wrote sweeping, captivating tales regarding farms -- specifically featuring complex and endearing characters who happened to be pigs.  However, the similarities between the two men and their fiction likely mostly ends there -- and not only because one was American and the other British.  Both used their porcine protagonists to weaves two very different tales indeed.  EB White's beloved "Charlotte's Web" narrates the story of unity, cooperation, and friendship -- plus what I always personally interpreted as strong, optimistic message as to the value of Nature, and of animals, and of anti-cruelty in general.  And all within the sweet setting of a peacefully idyllic, mid-century farmstead.   George Orwell's "Animal Farm", however, though also set against the backdrop of a picturesque farmstead, spins a very opposing narrative.  Orwell used his setting and plot to outline an allegorical and cautionary story about the rise of Soviet communism and of the brutal dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.  His pigs are far from sweet, passive characters -- they are highly manipulative creatures who get up to some very nasty things.  The intimidate and oppress their fellow farm-mates ("All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others").  They threaten and cajole, assail and even engage in violence -- a much darker yarn for sure.   "Charlotte's Web" and "Animal Farm", two classic and much beloved modern-day fables about intrepid pigs living on farms, that really couldn't be more 'opposite'....

(Note:  In the spirit of creative re-use, this painting support was hand-fashioned using a re-purposed old 10x12 wood frame. I like to upcycle previously used second-hand materials that might otherwise make their way to the landfill into my creative process in lieu of new purchases whenever applicable)....

This is my 2nd in a series of tributes to George Orwell.  You can find my previous piece here...

Side View

This painting will soon be making it's way across the country as a fun project commissioned by a White and Orwell fan.  Very thankful for lots of freelance work at present, with more to write about soon....