While our environment’s well-being has been declining for decades, humans have now reached a point where wasteful habits are threatening our futures, too. Ocean pollution and rapid decline in pollinating species populations are pushing us down the path of famine at an alarming speed. The worst part is we’re doing it to ourselves. In an effort to educate on such issues, and to benefit non-profit organizations Pollinator Partnership and Plastic Ocean Project, artist Darren Mulvenna is hosting the opening reception of his new exhibit, “Bee Hope and Sea Change,” at Caprice Bistro on Sunday, Mar. 19. The exhibit will consist of seascape paintings by Mulvenna, as well as ceramic pieces by Aundi Wilson, and macramé by Lauren Lassiter.
“The theme is basically protecting our oceans and our pollinators, which protect us in the end,” Mulvenna explains. “About 70 percent of our food supply is available because they’ve pollinated it. So many pollinating species are threatened or extinct.”
Along with being the curator and bartender at Caprice, Mulvenna is known for his company, Mimicri. He and business partner Andrea Hammond create butterfly-themed jewelry to sell in boutiques around Wilmington. As well, he is known for his surrealist environmentally themed paintings. Naturally, the idea of preserving our ocean and pollinators emerged organically.
“I started doing environmental pieces a while back,” Mulvenna tells. “A lot of new landscapes and seascapes I’m doing depict beautiful scenes, but I’m trying to show everyone that these are scenes you may not see in the future.”
While Mulvenna has mainly worked with acrylics for the last decade (“because they dry faster”), he will display five oil paintings for “Bee Hope and Sea Change.” “I realized I wasn’t getting the effects I wanted for the sea with the acrylics,” he tells. “My creative process is still developing when it comes to oils, but I think it’s getting better with each seascape painting.”
Mulvenna’s work responds to the pandemic of plastic pollution in the ocean and efforts of organizations like Plastic Ocean Project to eradicate it. More than 8 million tons of plastic are discarded in the ocean each year. The overproduction of single-use plastic items only perpetuate this issue.
“Plastic Ocean Project’s main agenda is to help figure out ways to clean the ocean,” Mulvenna says. “There’s a video on their website about how the mass of plastic found will eventually outweigh the amount of living fish.”
Along with Plastic Ocean Project, Pollinator Partnership will benefit from the Mulvenna’s exhibit. “Although the two organizations help with different causes, they’re both very important to our livelihood on this planet,” Mulvenna states.
Pollinator Partnership works to end the wrath of Colony Collapse Disorder, which has steadily overtaken populations of pollinating species. While the exact cause of CCD remains elusive, careless usage of chemicals and pesticides is definitely a factor among many others. Lassiter’s contribution to the exhibit is a large macramé piece she designed with Mulvenna.
“We have been acquaintances for years and share several close mutual friends,” Lassiter says. “I’ve been a patron of Caprice and always love the art featured there.”
Originally from Raleigh, Lassiter has lived in Wilmington for almost nine years. Only recently did she emerge herself into the art of macramé.
“It had been in the back of my mind for a while and I wanted to make pieces just for myself,” Lassiter explains. “One day last summer I was helping my boyfriend’s mother clean out her attic, and we found a dusty old stack of her mother’s macramé books from the ‘70s. It was a sign. I just started working without a real plan in mind and then realized I could really make somewhat of a living from it.”
About the size of a door frame, the piece adorned with monarch butterflies from Mimicri will display their migration patterns and population decline. Lassiter, like Mulvenna, is concerned with people’s current scope of awareness.
“These pressing environmental issues are no longer something to consider in the near future—they are happening now,” she says. “It’s a reality we all face, whether first hand or down the line. I hope more of us begin and continue to actively work to take care of our planet and its creatures. It’s up to us.”
Along with Lassiter, Wilson’s ceramic contributions pay respect to butterflies and plants they pollinate. For the exhibit, Wilson will contribute three different installations of flowers made from clay with Mimicri butterflies attached to them.
“I mentioned to Darren I raise Monarchs for the Great Migration every year,” Wilson explains. “We talked about the importance of pollinators and what can be done to educate others.”
Clay has been one of Wilson’s mediums since she was in high school, but it was near the end of her college career she decided she wanted to make a living with ceramics and pottery. Her craft and dedication to helping Monarchs combined perfectly for adding ceramic beauty to the exhibit.
“I hope viewers are inspired by the art to learn more about what they can do to help,” Wilson adds. “They certainly don’t have to start raising pollinators, but it would be really rewarding if my work inspires someone to do just that!”
Twenty percent of proceeds from art sales on Mar. 19 will benefit Plastic Ocean Project and Pollinator Partnership.