Focus on Climate Change and Sustainability
September 23 — October 31
Online and in the gallery
Double-click each image to get a bigger view of the art as well as the full artist statement.
Meet the Artists, Saturday, October 23, 1 - 3pm
The gallery is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon to 4pm.
The Athenaeum Gallery invited DC, Virginia, and Maryland artists to explore concepts related to climate change. We were looking for a wide variety of topics and perspectives, but all work accepted into the exhibition will have a common leitmotif: optimism for improving our footprint on the planet. Works that inspire rather than threaten, celebrate rather than scare, and explore new materials and techniques that help present a positive message about climate change and productive ways we can meet the associated challenges.
Artists were encouraged to consider the theme broadly and creatively. Some of the works accepted into the show might:
Reflect today’s opportunities to have a beneficial impact on the future.
Inspire, motivate, or educate people to take action in response to climate change.
Comment on the fragility or our world.
Feature sustainable or repurposed materials, methods, or practices.
Identify threats and propose solutions.
Explore the philosophical, cultural, and ecological implications of our impact on the environment.
$3,750 will be given in prizes, through four awards: Best in Show, Honorable Mention, Art Optimism, and Popular Choice.
Viewer's Choice Award
Vote for your Favorite!
Please let us know which piece best reflects ART OPTIMISM …..or just pick your favorite! The winning piece will be eligible for our Viewer's Choice award and a $500 prize.
Oil on canvas
46" x 46"
Dead birds, or in this case, extinct birds, can symbolize new beginnings. I found myself watching birds from my balcony in locked down Rome in 2020, in particular the Monk Parakeets. The birds delighted me with their ambitious behaviors. Other pandemic pastimes included strolling along the Tiber in the evening to observe the murmurations of the starlings and exploring the Baroque churches with their magnificent frescoed ceilings. These lovely visions are evident in Rebirth, my portrayal of the extinct Carolina Parakeet, the only parrot species native to Northern America.
Acrylic and seaweed on cradled board
16" x 12"
When considering global warming, the notion of “cow-burps” may elicit more of a chuckle than angst; still, they are a problem since cows emit methane, a substance that traps 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide. An unlikely hero has emerged to assist in the dilemma of agriculture-based methane production: seaweed! Recent studies by the University of California, Davis, have proven that when seaweed is added to cows’ diets, their methane output decreases by up to 82%. To showcase this exciting discovery, I have collaged dried seaweed (which I sealed and cut into shapes) into my painting. The cows in my piece have varied reactions to this new fodder: two are tentatively tasting the new treat, a third enthusiastically chomps away, already doing its part to fight climate change.
Fiber / mixed media
30" x 28"
I draw nature using thread and my sewing machine. My own suburban backyard and neighborhood provide inspiration. "Phishing" celebrates life under the sea. It's a pun on not always seeing bad things sneaking in. Repurposed CDs provide refractive watery color. I kept them out of the landfill!
Mixed media on canvas
20" x 16"
BLUE SKIES Series Look up to the sky and lift your awareness to the blues in the atmosphere. Manifest. Breathe in clean air. Nurture Nature in its simplest format: Plant Seeds, Grow Food, Be Fresh, Eat Colorful, Walk Places while protecting and enhancing our planet earth, environment, Mother nature with gentle kindness by our own hand. Furthermore promotes encouragement for reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling. Heiser paints with recycled palettes, reuses papers for cleaning paint brushes and plants seeds. Often barefoot in nature bringing personal awareness to our earth, sky, climate, waters, peacefully changing her footprint and sharing through artistic voice visually with those around her in family, community, socially – globally with pure heart. See the blue, breathe clear fresh air.
Encaustic and powdered pigment, 10” x 10”, $450.00
Combining metallic powdered pigment and hot encaustic wax illustrate the beauty and power of the energy of the sun. In just one hour, the earth can harness more energy from the sun than it would consume in an entire year. Solar energy is completely free and renewable. Let’s convert sunlight into energy instead of using fossil fuel. A base coat of matte turquoise encaustic medium captured the essence of the earth and its atmosphere. Sweeping the flame of the blowtorch over the shimmery copper metallic pigment created this swirling pattern bursting with solar energy.
Limited edition photograph
24" x 24"
Global warming is a daunting problem, but unlike many of our other challenges the solutions are all around us. Sunlight is ubiquitous and an unlimited source of power and electricity. Our fossil fuels – coal, oil, and natural gas – represent solar energy that was captured in prehistoric times. Sunflowers, which Native Americans domesticated thousands of years ago, can produce six hundred pounds of oil per acre, useable for biofuel. Like modern solar panels, sunflowers tilt toward the sun throughout the day to maximize energy production. For this project, I wanted to create a multiple-exposure image that would represent some of these themes, illustrating the myriad connections between sunlight, photosynthesis, and electricity and the potential for changing our energy systems in a beneficial direction.
Acrylic on canvas
20" x 26"
We still have a little bit of time left before we reach the point of no return in which climate change irrevocably spirals out of control. If we act quickly and decisively now we can yet save ourselves. My painting shows what would happen if we could suddenly stop all man-made CO2 emissions, or better yet, all of our greenhouse gas emissions (including methane). With emissions stopped, natural sinks would still operate and the temperature would stabilize.
Dye, cyanotype, canvas, found net floats, buoys, pool noodle
42" x 81" x 8"
Referencing the ill-fated character from the Titanic movie who froze in the cold waters of the Atlantic, this painting seeks to offer a brighter future for its collectors – with both its visible and hidden buoyancy elements, it doubles as a raft capable of supporting the bodyweight of two people.
My latest body of work examines how a painter copes with a rapidly changing cultural and environmental landscape. Using experimental techniques that blur the line between painting and sculpture, passive and active object, cultural artifact and survival tool, I work to examine this moment in time through the lens of art history, rising social pressures, and commodified disaster preparedness. My process is intentionally low-tech and jury-rigged, indicative of how the majority of the world will haphazardly be forced to adapt. In weaving, sewing, painting, dying, and salvaging materials, the studio becomes part wistful shrine, part research and development lab for the continuous adaptations and augmentations needed for painting to survive.
10’ x 38"
This cyanotype "jelly fish" was created by exposing plastic sheeting on light sensitive paper. Clear and undulating, plastic is mistaken as food by marine life. The ocean is a major influence on the climate. Picking up plastic is an easy way to keep it out of waterways, and foster a healthier ocean.
Mixed media on canvas
36" x 36"
Throughout the pandemic, I have used nature to sooth my soul and give me a sense of place far away from the harshness and despair in the world. Employing a combination of mark making with paint, inks, mixed media and the scraping away of strata, the composition of the painting surface mimics the natural progression and erosion seen in nature. The surfaces have an emotional and imperfect quality, expressing the search for the interconnectedness of water, air and the land. Being on the water or in the landscape and painting them fills me with an increased sense of urgency to protect and preserve what is now our vanishing natural environment. Giving hope by highlighting the beauty that surrounds us which feeds our collective souls.
Oil on canvas
16" x 16"
My painting deals directly with nature as I grow my own subject matter in my garden. The growth of my plants and their life cycles are the subjects of my work and also strongly relate to issues of climate change. Each year the plant growth is dictated by the climate changes in the Mid-Atlantic region. I collect a selection of plant samples from plants revealing all cycles of the life; including seeds, buds, flowers and roots. The states of birth and decay I observe in these plants are all symbols relating directly to a kind of the 'universal human psyche." The color in my paintings reflects my intense observation of plants and the environment. Water, Air and Earth are elements that embody for me healing properties generating human psychological state as well as teaching me to observe closely the true "reality of the world" around me.It is a "poetic sense" of the "essence of reality" that I am after. The Haiku poems of Basho are a major influence on my painting sensibility.
12.75" x 12.75"
Natural Selection pertains not only to the animal world — but is a reflection of the evolution in human behavior that is evidenced by the many earnest efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, be kinder to the planet, and control waste. I am hopeful that many species of animals will evolve in ways to adjust and eventually thrive as climate change affects their habitat.
50" x 11" x 8"
The focus of my sculptural work was to create a conversation piece on the importance of keeping the waterways and streams clean from plastics which affect the wildlife along the waterfront. The Koi Carp as a Spirit Animal is the sign of Perseverance and Positive change. Each person generate about 19 kilograms of plastic a year, and I wanted to address in a creative way how to use recycled plastics in one piece of a KOI CARP Swimming upstream as a sign of Prosperity and Change.
Pastel, silver leaf and acrylic on birch panel
31" x 42" x 2"
What's more optimistic than a sunrise? Three sunrises. Three suns visible at once whether through memory or time dynamic. They appear over renewing native grasses along the Lake Michigan shoreline. If this purposeful revival --which relies on community agreement--can occur at a much used beach in Chicago, what else might we accomplish. Small gestures like this times millions may be just as important as big technological breakthroughs in addressing our climate emergency.
Acrylic, acrylic markers, ink, string, molding paste
26" x 40"
How difficult the past year has been, filled with sorrow and loss. Gradually life has been improving. Cautiousness continues, but there is a sense of optimism in the air, that our lives are about to take a turn for the better. This painting reflects this anticipated joy. I’ve used Nature to demonstrate the upcoming release from isolation and confinement. Bright colors reflect this sense of positivity. Exuberant lines dance across the surface. There is a sense of celebration pervading the work. Pinwheels are spinning. Seeds are sprouting and plants are reveling. Viewers are invited to share in the fun, a picnic to be shared by all. I chose yupo for two of the paintings, knowing that the slick surface would permit the paint to slip and slide across the surface, creating a web of interlinking marks. Splatters are like jumping into puddles. I hope the viewer embraces the spirit in which I created this work, finds my joy and celebrates with me.
Monoprint collage with 23k. gold leaf
18" x 18"
This work reflects the heat and air movements of precious rain forests which absorb carbon dioxide and release needed oxygen. The thrust of my printmaking and painting is that of positive energy. My depiction of natural forces of wind, water and oxygen on our precious planet find their way onto thin, strong Chinese Xuan and Arches Text Wove papers with waterbased inks and accents of gold leaf. Having lived in four countries (South Africa, Thailand, Venezuela and China) my work is a distillation of faraway landscapes, some breathtakingly beautiful and others troubling. Still, nature heals itself if we allow it, and my vision is one of hope and radiance.
Acrylic, pages, copper leaf, graphite powder on canvas
20" x 16"
This mixed media painting isa part of a series that interprets regrowth of nature over the man-made. Through human's repeated pollution and misuse of the planet, these works abstractly depict how Mother Earth will find a way to take hold of her own again, and return to a natural state. The underlying pages of text are interpreted to be human creation, communication, and political power. Just like the age and oxidation of metal turn it into something new, that painted growth over top of the text represents nature’s evolution and adaptation to a new environment. While these works directly symbolize the urgency of combating climate change, they also highlight the positive and natural significance of female leadership helping to heal our world.
Mixed media tapestry
12"x 3"x 36"
Optimism is the belief there is good in the world despite the darkness that befalls us. I look for beauty in the broken, shattered, torn and discarded bits of material floating around in the world. I take these pieces and weave them into art. The weaving process calms the visual chaos and my internal unease, giving me peace and hope for the future.
Oil on canvas
24" x 40"
The citizens of our planet are bombarded every day with dire warnings about our rapidly increasing global temperatures and the consequences of inaction. Many of us don't believe, and others are happy to leave the issue to future generations. As a result, we probably will not take serious action until we see the consequences where we live. We are a very resilient and creative species, and will undoubtedly find solutions when we decide we're ready, but we will have to find ways to live with the new confrontation of nature and civilization when it happens. Coastal regions of the world will change quickly with rising waters and higher temperatures, but could this be the dream of many of us? Waterfront property and tropical winters are coming to many of us where we live, and no doubt we'll adapt happily to the new normal!
Layered paper and acrylic
24" x 30"
My art form uses hundreds of kinds of paper - papers created with only renewable materials - as the primary medium; I fold and rip and bend and manipulate the papers - in layers - to come out from the canvas like a relief sculpture, with texture and dimension. "Autumn Sky" is honoring trees - my favorite subject matter. I choose to celebrate trees by showing their beauty; I hope to raise awareness of trees and our necessity to protect them. My medium of paper also allows the trees to extend beyond the frame - adding an element of power & excitement to the piece. The grasses are dimensional, as are the leaves and the markings on the tree trunks.
Silk fusion/ silk paper
22" x 16
In my work I often use reclaimed materials such as fabric scraps, jute, left-over yarns or feather. By using recovered materials, I want to send a message to everyone that art exist to save the world and humanity and environment and not to destroy it. My creative process often starts from sketching design, small size painting, drawing, and/or making a collage, however, I particularly enjoy the actual process silk fusion since I personally view it as a challenge of painting with yarn, silk fiber any salvaged materials. Fiber art, like any other work of art, should make the viewer think. It should not tell the viewer what to think, but it should guide the viewers to think in a new way.
Oil and spray paint on canvas
36" x 48"
"Winter Resurrection" speaks to an optimistic view of the ability for the natural world to renew, regenerate, and overcome assaults of human endeavors. It offers assurance that the ubiquitous and unstoppable plant world can and will reclaim territory if given the chance. When human habitation is only a memory, the natural world will remain.
28.5" x 23"
Destruction of flora & fauna are one of the keystone causes of drastic changes in the climate. My works point to the exceptional mystery, wonder, & beauty of a tiny few of the abundant array of species we share our home with. Every sentient being wants to live, in peace, in their native habitat, in a healthy way surrounded by loved ones. While humans have certainly lost their way at times, we appear to be reaching a critical mass in terms of turning the corner in protecting our natural world, even as some species (down to single digits as in the case of the Vaquita) are literally struggling to protect their kind from being irrevocably wiped out. To survive, every species defends itself & in this existential moment, there is exceptional dignity in this. Beings are standing to be counted. I'm here. Don't count me out. Not yet. Maybe finally humans and nature will work together as one family so that our descendants can enjoy a rich, abundant world that we ourselves have so enjoyed.
Photo silk-screened, mixed media on Arches
40" x 40"
With impending climate crisis, I have become increasingly intrigued by ancient trees, their beauty, longevity and strength. How have they managed this? Trees exist by taking and giving to suit the collaborative needs of life forms around them. Humans have lost this connectedness, instead developing an insatiable hunger for more of everything at the expense of life itself. These tree portraits from my recent solo show “Trees/Humans: Life in the Balance” use my photo images of trees silk-screened onto wood veneers, with additional layers of drawing, painting and printing. They are shown in a magically realistic way, using my symbolic language to give voice to their urgings for restored balance to life on the planet. Studying trees’ collective wisdom brings me optimism and is something we humans, might learn from and perhaps be saved by in this present moment of climate crisis. I visualize their pleadings in hopes of opening the eyes and minds of the viewer.