My mixed media practice is a poetic response to the intersection of flooding, pollution and climate change happening in our continental watersheds. I incorporate scientific data related to the watersheds and use various mark-making methods as an outpouring of my grief for these damaged places. I am interested in the dynamic balance of—and sometimes even the tension between—scientific visioning and emotional processing. Using scale mindfully, I make a mix of differently-sized pieces that combine maps, painterly work with words, photo microscopy and diagrammatic elements.
I’ve made water-centric art for decades. In the last decade I have focused on the lakes and river systems around my home in the Midwest, especially Lake Erie. From there I have connected to the vast watersheds of the continent that sustain me—rivers like the Mississippi. As the child of scientists, I was raised to understand the details of how systems function and how we are damaging them. I’ve always been drawn to scientific images of watershed—from old survey maps by Harold Fisk to recent satellite images. They are powerful tools for observing environmental damage. Yet, the sensory, somatic, and lived impact of that damage isn’t apparent if one experiences a place solely through aerial imaging. I prefer, whenever possible, to spend time at a site to have an emotional, somatic relationship to it. I walk, photograph, journal and sketch.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I would have said climate change is the existential issue of our time. Today I would recast that more broadly– climate change, environmental damage, pollution, profligate overuse of resources, as well as viral outbreaks are all related to issues of poor human stewardship of our interconnected planet. The connection between environmental issues, environmental justice and the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on the poor and people of color is undeniable. As an artist, I bear witness to what we are losing and imagine ways to mitigate the losses creatively, lovingly and honestly.
Art cannot fix all of our problems, but it is a place to start understanding them both emotionally and intellectually. It is a method for acknowledging all the ways in which we are connected. My rules for making could be distilled down to this: use the data, don’t be too literal, make marks, be somatic, be emotive, use the movement. Connect the dots and acknowledge the grief.