Last week I sat on a panel discussion at the National Humanities Center in RTP with four other artists. The presentation was part of the opening reception for “Beyond Despair, an Environmental Call for Art,” a collaboration between the center and VAE in Raleigh.
Seemingly holding space for us while we adjust our vision, “Beyond Despair” quietly offers a range of visual responses to the depth of wildness as well as the impacts of long standing environmental degradation. With works by thirty-three artists, the exhibition is as much about human resiliency as it is about the environment, the two being indelibly linked.
In the above picture of the panel, L to R, we were Joshua White, Daniel Kariko, me, Justin Cook, and Claire Alexandre. Joshua was the juror/curator of the exhibition and moderated the panel. Together we were three photographers, one sculptor and one painter.
Worldwide, challenges to the environment pop every day, many times a day, magnified and minute. Data points. Percentages. Charts. Square miles. Populations. Politics. 280 characters, max.
The artists of “Beyond Despair” speak beyond sound bites, beyond numbers. On the panel we told of what we seek, and see. People who eke a life at the shifting water’s edge. People who practice resistance by maintaining tradition. Wildness that is simultaneously familiar and unknown, random and in order. Beauty. Memory. Resonance. Loss. Community. Tenacity. Time.
Toward the close of the discussion, Joshua asked us to describe the role of an artist in the context of the exhibition. It is to communicate essence. To see with a soft eye. To listen with an ear to the ground, where we are all rooted.