Eco-Aware Exhibits On View Through April 7

This trio of exhibits are part of The Green Art Project, whose mission is to bring renowned artists to the Central Valley who feature works that explore the theme of environmental sustainability.    The exhibits and our admission are sponsored by a grant from the Central Valley Foundation's McClatchy Art Endowment in association with the Center for Creativity and the Arts, Fresno Art Museum and Arte Américas.  

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Fresno Bee article by Don Munro

Figuratively speaking, 13 California artists “ignited” a sustainability conference that took place at UC last year, including two from UC Davis, Professor Ann Savageau and Professor Emerita Gyöngy Laky. Each works with reused and repurposed materials and participated in the creation of a traveling exhibit titled "Ignite! The Art of Sustainability"

The Ignite! exhibitors are among the state’s foremost contemporary artists who have long focused their work on issues of the environment and sustainability.

 Savageau, a member of the faculty in the Department of Design, is showing a new work, Central Valley Ghost Stories, 4 feet square by 4 inches deep, a three-dimensional viewing box depicting animals that used to roam the valley in large numbers, but today not at all or in much, much smaller numbers. These extinct and endangered animals appear in two layers, one at the front of the viewing box and one at the back. For the front layer, Savageau burned the images into polyester silkscreen fabric, then placed the fabric in between sheets of Plexiglas.

She pinned a duplicate image of each animal to a board at the back of the box, so, when looking through the box, one image lines up with the other.

The images play off each other — and with the shadows of the pinned images, creating a “ghostly” effect. “This extinction event mirrors, on a smaller scale, what is currently happening on a global scale due to climate change,” Savageau wrote in her artist statement. “I hope that this artwork helps the public grasp the implications of what we are experiencing right here in our own Central Valley.”

She also uses art to address consumer culture and wasteful consumption, and she often transforms waste into art. Take, for example, her BAG (Bags Across the Globe) project, an example of what artist-activists call an “intervention,” in which artists carry out actions in the public sphere.

Through BAG, Savageau promotes the crafting of reusable bags to reduce the use of plastic. Further, she shows how the reusable bags can be made from textile waste, thereby saving resources. Last year she curated a Design Museum exhibition with a tornado as the centerpiece — a tornado made from more than 1,000 plastic bags, the number that an average California couple uses in a year. The tornado symbolized how plastics bags “are causing serious environmental problems” all over the world, Savageau said at the time.

Laky, affiliated with the art and design departments, is a self-described environmentalist who, in her artwork, often uses materials harvested from nature and agricultural sources, and incorporates recycled elements as well. “She is attracted to humble materials, and simple, direct methods of hand construction that she associates with basic, grass roots, human ingenuity about making things,” her website states.

Laky’s art is seen in the Ignite! logo, a photograph of letters and an exclamation point that she crafted from apple, grapevine, nails and wire. The typeface is from a collection that she made for The New York Times’ Sunday magazine’s Green Issue in 2008.

The other participating artists: Kim Abeles, Robert Dawson, Penelope Gottlieb, Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison, Sant Khalsa, Judith Lowry, Linda MacDonald, Luke Matjas, Daniel McCormick and Kim Stringfellow. All of them — Savageau and Laky included — communicate a heightened connection to their natural surroundings through rich imagery using a variety of media from the traditional (photographs, painting and video) to the unconventional (smog-particulate matter on porcelain), according to a news release from the nonprofit organization Exhibit Envoy, which produced the exhibition.

“What emerges are the unique traits of California’s ecological regions and the range of extremes present in our state,” the news release continues. Dawson, a San Francisco-based photographer, celebrates the success stories of environmental preservation: “For all the destruction witnessed, however, I discovered that California remains a remarkable source of innovation that is often fueled by love of the place and memory of what it once was.”

Matjas, an associate professor of art at California State University, Channel Islands, is showing large, colorful, chaotic digital drawings — distorted scenes of the collision of natural and human-made objects. “Ultimately, my work attempts to re-instill a sense of mystery and wonder to our world,” he said. The catalyst for this traveling exhibition was an event planned by the Green Museums Initiative (GMI) of the California Association of Museums in October 2011.
GMI hosted statewide dialogues on regional ecological issues and the role museums might play in building healthy communities, both human and in nature. Contemporary artists from each region joined museum leaders, scientists, environmentalist, and community stakeholders for the daylong discussions.

Ignite! The Art of Sustainability exhibits the dynamic works created by these artists based on their discussions and the issues that arose in each regional dialogue. Thirteen of California’s foremost environmental artists collaborate to communicate a heightened connection to their natural surroundings through rich imagery using a variety of media from the traditional (photographs, painting, and video) to the unconventional (smog /particulate matter on porcelain). Together, their approach is multidisciplinary, drawing on art, science, spirituality, and social justice.

What emerges are the unique traits of California’s ecological regions and the range of extremes present in our state. Curated by Kate Davies, independent curator and writer.

Text excerpted from an article by David Jones

Nothing Wasted  
Group Show
On view Feb 10 - Apr 7

Fresno Bee article by Don Munro

The objective of this exhibit is to bring awareness to the continuously growing social issue of public waste and pollution in the environment. 

Featuring a diverse group of artists from the Central Valley each presenting their own conceptual approach of promoting waste reduction, sustainability, and the new life of the disposed media. 
The work will range in all forms, from two-dimensional wall pieces to three-dimensional installations throughout the Ruiz Gallery.


VALLEY OF SHADOWS AND DREAMS Photos and words by Ken and Melanie Light

Several years ago, Ken and Melanie Light embarked on a five-year photographic journey of a region known for its agricultural plenty – and the marginalization of its people. In their book, Valley of Shadows and Dreams, p116the Lights dig deep into the harsh truths of farm workers’ daily experiences in California’s Central Valley and take a hard look at the legacies of politics, bureaucracy and control in the region.

p127The second collaboration between photographer Ken Light and author Melanie Light, the project began when Melanie was researching background information on Hansel Mieth, one of the first woman photographers at Life Magazine and a politically active social p139documentary photographer in the 1930s and 1940s.

Pouring through old, loopy letters made with a fountain pen, and scrolling through microfiche of the lettuce strike in Tulare, the vast acreage suddenly teemed with life and history. Astonished by the frenzy of development, including massive tracts of agricultural land being turned into cul de sacs and suburban 
neighborhoods, the Lights discovered a complex web that went far beyond residential development.
Witnessing the real estate bubble implode in the valley, the Lights expanded their story to what they can only describe as a slow motion train wreck of unsustainability. The Lights soon found the project gripping at many levels, primarily because the issues being played out in the valley, American style, happen to be the global challenges of our generation: water, land use, population, and growing economic disparity.

About the Artists

Ken and Melanie Light (Photo by Sky McCarthy)Ken Light’s published work includes Coal Hollow, Witness in Our Time, Texas Death Row, Delta Time, To the Promised Land, and With These Hands. He has exhibited internationally and received numerous grants and awards including three NEA grants and the Dorothea Lange Fellowship. He is currently a professor and director of the Center for Photography at the University of California, Berkeley and a Laventhol visiting professor at Columbia University.
Melanie Light’s most recent publication is Coal Hollow. Her other work includes special-edition books. Among them are Night at the Met, with photographs by Larry Fink, and Mad Day Out, with photos of the Beatles. She was the founding executive director of Fotovision, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the international community of documentary photographers, and is the recipient of grants from the Soros Documentary Fund and the Rosenberg Foundation. Light teaches and lectures internationally.