Tuesdays Retrospective of MAYDAY !EAARTH: 13 Artists Declare A Climate Emergency at Ceres Gallery

Apr 5, 2023 | Art Insights

By Patti Jordan

Human production and consumption have rapidly degraded the ecosystems of our major communities over the past several decades; Earth at present is in a state of chaos. Moreover, humankind’s attempt at reversing existing ecological damages does not keep up with the prevailing and accelerated rates of destruction impacting the globe exponentially. We have thus been made painfully aware of immanent climate change despite hereunto efforts at intervention. MAYDAY !EAARTH is a global distress call to signal that time is running out. It is also a call to action that posits urgent questions: Can our world continue to be livable with environmental endangerment worsening? What are our options to mitigate this adverse progression?

Jane Culbertson. The Warming. 1999. Courtesy of Ceres Gallery, New York, NY.

Anchoring the show thematically in Gallery I is Jane Culbertson’s visionary The Warming, an oil on paper archival print that drafts a prescient warning of inevitably warming terrains in 1999. Culbertson’s creative practice has sought to express the Earth’s coinciding power and fragility manifested in bright reds, browns, and shimmering iridescence, for over forty years. Her adeptness at magnifying topographies in pictorial dimensions echoes the urgency of our geographical condition.

Marcia Annenberg. Sledding Down a Slippery Slope. 2022. Courtesy of Ceres Gallery, New York, NY.

Marcia Annenberg links soybean production and deforestation through boldly designed and configured media in Sledding Down a Slippery Slope, 2022. Her imagery draws upon capitalist complicity in the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest by commodities brokering – a quasi-chess game contingent upon supplying cheap soy products to animal farming industries. Deforestation reflexively turns the rainforest into a carbon source, augmenting global warming. Annenberg’s piece defers to Joseph Beuys’s 1969 Sled – a primitive rescue vehicle and metaphor for species’ survival.

Noreen Dean Dresser. Harvest Fields I’ve Not Flown C. 2022. Courtesy of Ceres Gallery, New York, NY

From her mixed media series, Fallen, Noreen Dean Dresser’s Harvest Fields I’ve Not Flown C.22 portrays environmental grief based on the rampant loss of wildlife. Focused on ailing birds fallen from tainted skies, Dresser’s defiled and torched panels, dominated by empty or crumpled nests, amplify grieving through absence. As a tonalist palette enacts this elegiac work comprised of scorched surfaces and detritus, tactility becomes a stand-in for the unseen winged subject.

Walter Brown. Coral Corral #1. Courtesy of Ceres Gallery, New York, NY.

Walter Brown’s abstract sculpture, Coral Corral #1, creates an iconic form from disposable plastics analogous to the quotidian. In these plastic-on-plastic objects – bags, caps, and bottles organically build upon one another. Brown’s melted forms shrink, constrict, retract, and phase out, like the scaling back and rethinking needed in everyday life to make a difference in our climatic future.

Lois Bender. Kaleidoscope of Coralscapes Memento Mori, 2022. Courtesy of Ceres Gallery, New York, NY.

Lois Bender’s Kaleidoscope of Coralscapes Memento Mori in Gallery II looms large, a twelve-panel wall-sized installation depicting endangered corals in fluorescent complements. Mourning the loss of undersea biomes and their living organisms dying from industrial pollutants could not have been more inspiriting than in Bender’s grided and stenciled arrangements, whose colors optically leap out at the viewer. 

In sum, having perceived the issues viscerally, one comes away feeling more convinced by the axiom that art inherently possesses the capability of influencing (climate) change. MAYDAY !EAARTH enables access to an experience that makes these subjects felt. At the very least, it creates greater awareness so that more of us can make more informed choices.

MAYDAY !EAARTH featured the work of the following artists:

Marcia Annenberg, Krisanne Baker, Lois Bender, Walter Brown, Janet Culbertson, Noreen Dean Dresser, Daniel Eubank, Kathy Levine, Angela Manno, Susan Hoffman Fishman, Lisa Reindorf, Christian Pietrapiana, and Angela Shapiro.