LANDSCAPE AT ESCAPE VELOCITY
The landscape has become a site of increasing conflict in the early twenty-first century. From the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to the tsunami that caused the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima in 2011 to last week's announcement that Los Angeles is due to have a major earthquake in the next few years, it seems that thinking about the landscape, as well as the need for escape, is a constant theme in today's headlines. The speed at which we can run from the effects of global warming, however, may have already reached terminal velocity. On a planet of limited resources, where several recent reports about environmental degradation have suggested that we are well ahead of curve in reaching the planetary tipping point where ecological equilibrium will become harder and harder to restore with each passing year, we find that time has now become the dominant concern in thinking about the present crisis. From the melting icecaps to the cascading collapse of ecosystems, and even the idea that we are now well into the 6th great extinction of all life on planet Earth, it is not hard to understand why we find a whole new generation of artists who are invested not only in the landscape as an object of timeless contemplation, but as an event scene of immediate consequences for the times we live in.
Whether looking at the effects of light, water and atmospheric pollution; or war and personal narratives of power and struggle; or even how the history of landscape photography has been used to generate narratives about the 'manifest destiny' of western exploration and exploitation; the artists in this exhibition make us more aware of a wide range of critical issues effecting the environment today. By using photography, weaving, activism, printmaking and any number of material interventions, the works included in Landscape at Escape Velocity demonstrate a renewed interest in the politics of the 'natural' and the constructed environment, as well as the many ways that these two concepts are never really mutually exclusive. Afterall, we are always already invested in a perspective, which is to say the use of a 'framing device' that is never free of ideological implications or the kind of material and cultural histories that inform how we 'read' the decisions that are made about inclusion and exclusion whenever we being to think about 'picturing' the landscape. Only now, it seems as if it is the landscape that is returning the favor by putting humanity out of frame in an era of increasing environmental disruption, if not outright devastation. As such, the works in Landscape at Escape Velocity ask us to reconsider what kinds of interventions can be made that will continue to participate in consciousness raising about the environment calamities that seem to be taking place all around the world. The dominant theme in such an exhibition is whether a sense of collapse is a foregone conclusion in a culture that is drowning in narratives of distress and destruction, or whether another future is still possible. A key subtext behind much of the work included in Landscape at Escape Velocity is whether it is really the environment we are seeking to escape or the kind of cognitive dissonance that hyper-capitalism institutes in relation to overproduction and planned obsolescence, i.e., whether what we really need is a new cultural narrative about sustainability and the consideration of 'externalities', of which the landscape is but one instance in relation to our current mode of production.
If anything, the survey of images presented in Landscape at Escape Velocity attest to a future anterior by showing us how personal, political and socio-economic narratives can be reframed in such a way that the need to escape may not have to be our only option. Rather, the term escape might offer us a much needed reprieve, or a momentary 'break' from the machinations of everyday life, where critical reflection can help to mitigate some of the worst effects of the current crisis. Toward this end, the selections included in Landscape at Escape Velocity show us some of the most prescient practices in contemporary art that seek to address the environment as nothing less than the defining genre of our era.
Artists: Edgar Cardenas, Kerstin Dale, William LeGoullon, Leah Lewman, Ann Morton, and Buzzy Sullivan.
Bio: Edgar Cardenas was born in California, raised in Wisconsin, and educated in New England and the Southwest. He studied Psychology at Gordon College (BA), Industrial/Organizational Psychology at University of New Haven (MA), and Sustainability at Arizona State University (Ph.D.). While at ASU, Edgar focused on the intersection of art and science for addressing sustainability challenges. The culmination of this work resulted in both a written dissertation and a solo thesis exhibit at Night Gallery. He believes the next creative mashup should be between art and science so he maintains a serious practice in both spaces.
Edgar’s work investigates the ecological, cultural, and technological subtleties of human/environment relationships. As an interdisciplinary artist, he works in multiple visual mediums, making decisions based on the conceptual relevance of the materials to the project. Most of his projects become a fusion of photographic, video, and sculptural mediums combined with the written word. Edgar has exhibited internationally at both art and science venues and has been published in art and science journals as well. He is also a member of the – invitation only – Art Photo Index.
Bio: Kerstin Dale’s current work is based on her concern for the ecological changes in the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, versus the population growth of the desert southwest. Water—its absence or presence, its memory—is the prominent feature in her artwork. She aims to elevate the role of water, by using her art practice to highlight the utterly essential nature of water, pay homage to the gift of water, and to mourn its loss. Her exhibition record includes exhibitions at Conrad Wilde Gallery, Tucson Art Museum, and Prescott College Art Gallery. Her work has been supported by a Contemporary Forum Grant from the Phoenix Art Museum. Kerstin received her BFA from the University of Arizona, and her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Kerstin currently resides in Flagstaff, AZ.
Bio: William LeGoullon is an artist and curator raised and currently based in Phoenix, Arizona. Since receiving his BFA from Arizona State University in 2009 where he studied under Mark Klett and William Jenkins, he has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally including exhibitions in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Fort Collins, Santa Barbara, Seattle and Belgrade Serbia. His work has earned him a variety of awards, recognitions, and publications. In 2011 LeGoullon was awarded a Contemporary Forum Emerging Artist Grant from The Phoenix Art Museum and exhibited in The Arizona Biennial at The Tucson Museum of Art. The following year he was awarded a Public Art Commission by The City of Phoenix - Office of Arts and Culture as part of the Seventh Ave. Streetscape Project. His next solo exhibition is planned for January 2016 at Modified Arts Contemporary Gallery in Phoenix, where he will be exhibiting photographs from his body of work titled (Un)Intended Targets.
Bio: Leah Lewman is an artist and student currently based in Tucson, AZ. She is an MFA candidate in Studio Arts at the University of Arizona. Her current work focuses on the visual and ecological contrasts between the natural desert landscape and the manmade structures imposed upon it. Leah is originally from Ellicott City, Maryland, and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Painting in 2013 from Salisbury University in Salisbury, MD. Lewman has participated in over a dozen exhibitions in the Maryland area, including the 2012 National Juried Exhibition, featuring juror Ethan Karp of the OK Harris Gallery in New York. She received several awards for her undergraduate thesis work, including the Fulton School of Arts Purchase Award and the Roth Honors Thesis Prize. Lewman was also invited to present her work at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in 2013, located in La Crosse, WI. Since coming to the Southwest, she has been in several exhibitions including a group showing at Exploded View Gallery, and a solo show of her works in the Graduate and Alumni Gallery at UA, entitled “Detachments.” She’s received several scholarships as a graduate student, including the Barbara Rogers Scholarship for Painting, the Anne Moreton Memorial Scholarship, and the Sarnoff Art Supply Scholarship. She also maintains a position as Teacher of Record at the University of Arizona.
Bio: After a 35 year professional career as a graphic/environmental graphic designer, Ann secured her MFA in 2012 from Arizona State University. Currently, she is a practicing artist and educator at Arizona State University and Paradise Valley Community College in metropolitan Phoenix. Her work has been shown and recognized nationally and internationally. A few highlights include The Collective Cover Project, selected in the juror’s top five in the 3D category at ArtPrize 2012 and awarded the OxBow Residency; Street Gems, a social enterprise initiated in 2012-ongoing, engaging individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness to make jewelry and flowers from discarded plastic; and Ground Cover, a socially engaged public art project that was selected by the Americans for the Arts, Public Arts in Review for 2014 and received the Arizona Forward Crescordia award in 2014. Currently Ann has a solo exhibition showing at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft through January 2106 that includes The Collective Cover Project and a new social project titled “What Happened Today?”.
Bio: Darryl Naito is an artist born from Los Angeles with his degree in printmaking from Arizona State University. He won the Congressional Art Competition for the 25th district in California back in 2010 with the first print he pulled, and his work was indicted into the Special Reserves of ASU’s Diablo Printmaker’s Guild after he graduated. His work has been featured as far as Chihuahua’s H. Congreso del Estado Chihuahua and the Cannon Hall in Washington D.C. and as close as ASU’s Night Gallery.
Bio: Buzzy Sullivan is a photographer from Missoula, Montana. He received his BFA from Oregon College of Art & Craft and is currently a candidate for an MFA from Arizona State University. His work has been collected and shown internationally. His most recent Solo exhibition, Between Horizons, is on view at the Buckley Center Gallery at the University of Portland through January 2016.