NESTed art gallery in Carbondale showcases the intersection between art and science
Colorado sci-artists tackle climate change using unique methods
Carbondale’s Virtual First Friday for March is an extension of CORE’s Imagine Climate 2021 programming and explores the intersection between art and science. Rayna Benzeev, a fourth-year phD candidate at CU Boulder in the environmental studies department, said historically science has struggled with communicating to a general audience. The NESTed Gallery in Carbondale gives sci-artists — artists with scientific backgrounds and vice-versa — the chance to captivate the public through various strategies.
“We are the Climate Chins,” she said. “We are a group of seven chin characters that they’re upside down human faces, with a face and a wig on the chin part that try to make climate change funny. So the point is that climate change is often presented as this doom and gloom scenario…But there’s reason to have hope and reason to make it funny rather than super serious all the time.”
Mark Cesark, an artist local to Carbondale and who has lived in the valley since 1996, said his primary medium for art is found objects. For this exhibit, Cesark said he has pieces built from painted steel — some from parts of a discarded dumpster — and also made from styrofoam trash found in packaging. He wrote in an email that throughout his time living here he’s seen proof of climate change through the ways seasons have changed, and that there’s a reason he works with the materials he does.
“Scientific estimates say that styrofoam is a material that takes 1 million years to break down in a landfill. For a material that has such a long lifespan its usefulness is very short-lived. Used widely to protect objects in shipping and packaging it is everywhere and rarely is there a place to recycle it so it winds up in the environment,” Cesark said.
Jon Raberg, another PhD candidate at CU Boulder studying climate change, put together a multimedia experience with a team for the exhibit based on a trip he took to the Salt Flats in Utah. Other collaborators, including Raberg’s sister Erika Raberg, opera singer Claire McCahan and Ryan Packard, all brought their respective disciplines to the table to put the piece together, Raberg said. The exhibit is also available for viewing online.
“We decided it would be really cool if (McCahan) sang that piece, that history (of temperatures). I thought that she would just interpret it very literally, you know, up and down, up and down. And then what came out was this whole really evocative story which was really amazing and surprising to me,” Raberg said.
There are also artists who look to illustrate climate change or spur conversation about these topics that aren’t necessarily science experts, but want to give power to those who are advocating for the longevity in our planet’s health. Trace Nichols, is an Aspen educator and artist who teaches for the graduate photography program at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and works with mixed media or a hybrid between photography and print-making. Matt Smith is in his first year as an assistant professor for sculpture at Marshall University in West Virginia. Smith said just within the last two weeks he had witnessed some of the more drastic effects of climate change.
“Just this week the town of Huntington, West Virginia, where I currently reside, and which sits on the banks of the Ohio had to put up its floodgates,” Smith writes in an email. “Everyone around me is astounded by the event. Just one week before this tumultuous downpour we had an incredible ice storm that ended up knocking my power out for about two weeks. The collision between aging infrastructure and the effects of the climate are all around me.”
Nichols said she is excited for people to view the gallery since art can so often just tackle the surface of ideas, issues.
“I think oftentimes art…Doesn’t dive deep enough into the things that really matter,” she said. “So, while it does have the ability to harness a really strong voice, oftentimes what it’s communicating doesn’t carry the muster that I think it has the ability to.”
The show will be in the R2 Gallery at the Launchpad through March 25. For the VFF celebration, Amy Kimberly will be talking to Corey Simpson of Thunder River Theater at 6 p.m. to discuss the importance of community, even if it is in a virtual setting. The evening will also show highlights from previous Green is the New Black fashion shows, and presentations from restaurants Brass Anvil and Atina Bar & Grille.
Christy McCain, Associate professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at CU Boulder, said her photographs in the show give a close-up perspective of naturally-induced fire scars on trees at high elevation to illustrate the effects of climate change. McCain said it is important to not underestimate the power one person can have but at the same time, know how to approach conversations with those who may still be in denial about climate change despite the scientific data that backs it up.
“You just look for those conversations where you might just instill a little doubt into people’s minds,” she said. “I think one of the strongest things to talk about is their grandchildren or their grandchildren’s children. What opportunities do you want your offspring, or your offspring’s offspring to have in the future?”
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