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CREATING NEW CONTEXTS: Wilma Daniels hosts multi-media show inspired by writings on environmental issues

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Art has the ability to communicate and provoke thought and create new contexts.

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Art moves. It invokes a multitude of emotion and sometimes even action—especially when its creators are ablaze with inspiration. Cape Fear Community College’s Wilma W. Daniels Gallery will open the exhibit “We’ve Got Issues: Visual Responses to Environmental Writing” this week. Curated by art professor Abigail Spangel Perry, the show has asked a multitude of artists, locally, nationally and internationally, to create multimedia works influenced by published writings on environmental issues.   

EPHEMERAL FASHION: Jan Ru Wan’s work with textiles is a piece on meditation about balance and loss of nature, based on melting ice. Courtesy photo

EPHEMERAL FASHION: Jan Ru Wan’s work with textiles is a piece on meditation about balance and loss of nature, based on melting ice. Courtesy photo

“Art has the ability to draw a viewer in through subject and manipulation of materials, and in the end communicate ideas and  feelings,” Perry says. “Writing offers information and has the ability to express ideas and opinions about issues the world is facing.”

We interviewed the curator about the show, which opened Tues., Jan. 12, and its participants.

encore: Tell me how you came up with the concept for ‘We’ve Got Issues…”?

Abigail Spangel Perry: Communicating thoughts and feelings about environmental issues is an interesting challenge. Writings on the topic are a strong source of inspiration. I thought it would be interesting to base a show on the idea of exploring environmental issues through writing without dictating what direction the artists participating should take with their subject. 

e: Are you an activist?

ASP: I do not consider myself an activist, more a quiet participant. When I was younger, I worked as an Americorp volunteer. The experience taught me grassroots community development and the idea of leading by example. The experience led me to teach. I taught with DREAMS Center for Arts Education for many years and have been with CFCC since 2008. At the community college, I have assisted in the development of a Sustainability Committee, which I am still actively involved with, and founded/serves as faculty advisor for Surfrider Club CFCC.

Outside of work, I am an active volunteer with the Cape Fear Chapter of Surfrider Foundation and occasionally volunteer with Cape Fear River Watch. I am mostly an activist through my art-making though. When in the studio, I am happiest thinking about how to communicate ideas about biology and the environment.

e: The show comprises artwork inspired by enviro-writings; what writings exactly? How were they chosen?

ASP: The intention of the show presents visual interpretations of passages from environmental writings. I asked artists to participate based on their use of materials, the narrative quality of their work, or the ability of their work to address political, social and environmental topics.

e: What piece of work fascinates you most thus far in the show?

ASP: Landry [Randriamandroso’s] work offers a strong communication of the text he chose. He visually communicates information about endangered birds through an arrangement of colorful graphic images of 50 different species painted on crushed aluminum cans he has found while walking.

The size and ephemeral quality of Jan Ru Wan’s work is instantly engaging because she works installationally with textiles. Her piece is a meditation about balance and loss in nature, inspired by an article about melting ice.

e: It’s a culmination of local artists and out-of-town artists; was this intentional? How did you find them?

ASP: I asked each person to participate.  Each person is someone I know either personally or professionally. I invited them because their artistic integrity and purposeful artmaking spoke to my sensibilities in some way.

e: What are some of the mediums covered in the show and materials used? Are any cutting-edge?

ASP: Kiki Farrish, Anne Lindburg, Brandon Guthrie, Jennifer Drinkwater and I have used the traditional approaches of drawing and painting.  As mentioned, Landry has repurposed aluminum cans for small format paintings, and Jan Ru has designed a mixed media textile piece.

e: Tell me a little more about your own work—what’s the imagery, materials, process, inspiration…

ASP: My work for the show was inspired by the book “Dodging Extinction: Power, Food, Money, and Life on Earth” by Anthony D. Barnosky. Barnonsky, a paleobiologist, spent the majority of the text offering the reader stories about the earth’s geologic and evolutionary past, and how humans have negatively impacted the earth. By the end of the book, he offers ways we can act now to facilitate change before we are doomed to a sixth extinction.

One solution he offers up is “de-extinction,” by bioengineering extinct species, such as the passenger pigeon. “Martha” is a painting of the iconic last passenger pigeon who passed away in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1917. “Resurrecting Martha” is a series of small paintings showing the embryonic development of a bird.

e: What do you hope viewers get most from the show?

ASP: Art has the ability to communicate and provoke thought and create new contexts. My hope is viewers of the show will gain a deeper insight into the problems presented and walk away with a better understanding of the world around them. Many people do not relate what goes on in their own lives to environmental problems. They do not feel responsible for how their choices add to broader issues. 

We’ve Got Issues: Visual Responses to Environmental Writing
Wilma W. Daniels Gallery
200 Hanover St.
Jan. 12- Feb. 19
Opening reception: Jan. 22, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Gallery hours: Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m. -5:30 p.m., and Sat., noon – 5:30 p.m.

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