Environmentally focused art has been cultivated since the rise of Dutch landscape paintings in the early 1500s. However, in the 1970s, the Environmental Art Movement began to emerge in many forms including, but not exclusively in, the form of earth art. A few of these artists took an environmentally conscious route and sought to regain harmony with the natural world and expressed this need by explicitly reneging conventional man-made materials for organic ones. Throughout time, this movement developed into a more specialized idea known as Ecological Art, or EcoArt. EcoArtists, like most political artists, focused on sending a particular message, in this case concerning one or another aspect of environmentalism, to raise awareness about their cause. They often focused on acting as teachers for the general public in regards to the modern experiences. In examples of EcoArt, the message always pertains to the sustainability issues for our ecosystem, food, media, and memory.
Sustain Me attempts to capture those messages through the photographs of Saint Mary’s students enrolled in the Fall 2015 Beginning Photography class. These photographs speak volumes about the impact humans have on the earth. While faced with the same task, each student explores vastly different relationships between mankind and nature. Each artist tackles a particular issue facing society. The artist Viet Nguyen cleverly comments on the overuse of words such as “organic” in the produce industry that enables manipulation of society through marketing of the “natural” conditions of food. Bold typography photographed with colorful produce creates an image that shocks the senses while intriguing the mind, calling the viewer to question why the “organic” label justifies higher prices on their “fresh” produce. Bobbie Lewis juxtaposes text in the form of repeating haikus over images relating to his poem to shed light on issues often ignored by society, including the constant use of electricity. The haikus are all written by the artist and conveys a personal tone to his work. Anna Jameson’s images revolve around the relationship between youth and the environment, daring the viewer to imagine how current conditions of the earth may affect the future of humanity. Rudy Ruelas chose to focus on the effects of transportation on the environment. Alisa Sakakura makes an interesting connection between the strive for perfection that all people face in one way or another and the manufacture of fake plants. Kaitlin Hester presents striking images of the natural world tainted with evidence of mankind’s wasteful manner, visually reminding the viewer that litter pollution hurts our environment and wastes natural resources. This exhibition is built on the compassion and understanding that the artists bring to the show. Our mission is to inspire humanity to reflect on the earth and its resources, keeping in mind that our planet will not last if we continue these vicious cycles of wastefulness.
Sustain Me is curated by the Gallery Exhibition Team SP16 and presented by the Art & Art History Department, Saint Mary’s College California. The Gallery Exhibition Team is a class that focuses students upon the practice of curation and exhibition display. Thanks to Prof. Isabella LaRocca, and the faculty of the Art & Art History Department.