Artist Statement on Metamorphosis by Charlotte Shristi
In the process of finding photographs of downtown Harrisonburg and painting a fairly realistic imagined scene of court square in the future, the global COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. My painted vision of Harrisonburg’s downtown included buildings with roof-top gardens and solar farms, light-rail train, reforested pedestrian mall surrounding the square, open-air farmers’ market and café seating and a park with children playing on the shore of a small pond.
However, this painting wasn’t finished no matter how much I played with the details! Two additional images wanted to become focal points for the painting. The details of what a sustainable future looks like, became secondary to the how, of that transformation!
I had recently read an article* about the pandemic (and other crisis) offering an opportunity to be understood as a portal leading to transformation… a chrysalis. The pandemic has exposed the ways our society and our belief systems fail so many people, often the most vulnerable. Can we reimagine a social structure that includes and cares for all people as well as the planet whose life-support system makes our existence possible? What would this metamorphosis look like?
The other image comes from a number of prophesies of Indigenous American Nations. The Eagle and the Condor flying together represents the coming together of different people groups who need to share their knowledge and work together.
“When the Eagle and Condor once again fly wing tip to wing tip, it will herald a time of partnership, love and healing, and the Earth will come back into balance. When the People of the Eagle help the Condor soar again, they will cease making the choices that are destroying the Earth, and their own sense of isolation, unhappiness and stress will vanish. Together, they will make a new design for the children and for future generations, for the good of all life everywhere”**
The national/international mobilization to end police racism and brutality had not yet happened, but I see this vision of Eagle and Condor being relevant….calling forth transformation of systems of power and exploitation. The same domination world view leads to both the oppression of peoples and exploitation of the planet. We are in desperate need of a shift to a partnership world view where the well-being of the whole is valued, where black and brown lives are valued. Those struggling for a livable future, should also be struggling for a livable present and vice versa.
OASIS Fine Art & Craft, an artists’ co-operative with a storefront gallery in downtown Harrisonburg, helped celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020 by featuring a collection of original art created in response to a call for works reflecting on “Visions of a Sustainable Valley.”
With the encouragement of local grassroots environmental organizations Earth Day Every Day Harrisonburg (EDED) and the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV), Barbara Camph, OASIS artist and EDED team member, and Karen Lee, of EDED and CAAV, took up the challenge of creating this invitational show. Their efforts, combined with other OASIS artists, gave rise to a remarkable and diverse collection of creative works meant to inspire, educate and help viewers imagine a way toward resiliency in the face of growing environmental and societal threats.
EDED, formed in 2019, is bringing local attention to the crisis of plastic pollution and the waste inherent in single use plastic. CAAV members are working on promoting the 50by25 campaign, urging more renewable energy and increased energy efficiency in Harrisonburg. Members of these two groups felt our area artists could offer a valuable means of instilling efforts like theirs into the fabric of our community. And be a great way to honor Earth Day.
“Visions of a Sustainable Valley” was generously sponsored by James McHone Jewelry, Earth Day Every Day Harrisonburg, Hess Financial, Eugene Stoltzfus Architects, and Steven Toyota. The works were judged and prizes awarded to three winners and a “People’s Choice” award pick.
Additionally, Barbara worked with art teacher Christopher Michael at East Rockingham High School late last year to have his advanced art students illustrate the harmful effects of plastic waste. Their works served as an inspiration for a “Plastic Waste Blues” public art mosaic for downtown Harrisonburg. OASIS displayed the students’ work along with those of the artists contributing to “Visions of a Sustainable Valley.”
The 23 works by 10 local artists comprising “Visions of a Sustainable Valley” and 15 works by 14 art students for “Plastic Waste Blues” were displayed at OASIS throughout April and May 2020, but because of COVID-19 shutdowns, few people were able to see the art in person. Thanks to OASIS and EDED efforts, these works were available for virtual viewing on Facebook including an opportunity to vote for the “People’s Choice” award. The opening reception planned for April’s First Friday had to be canceled and with it the means of publicizing and giving the project the recognition and attention it deserved.
We acknowledge OASIS Fine Art & Craft for the fine work of its organizers. Just putting on an invitational show is a feat in itself–a major effort with lots of steps and coordination. They responded to CAAV’s invitation and pulled it all off beautifully, including inventing Harrisonburg’s first virtual art exhibit in the pandemic!
Karen Ryder Lee, Earth Day Every Day, Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, and contributing artist
In hopes that these works can be more widely viewed and appreciated for their contributions to the sustainability conversation, photos of the “Visions of a Sustainable Valley” projects, together with commentary from some of the artists, are featured below. Please find photos of the student works and more about the “Plastic Waste Blues” project here.
CAAV is working to broaden our own, and our community’s, understanding of the importance of resiliency on an individual and a collective basis. Resiliency includes sustainability, adaptation, and mitigation. Education is critical for needed action. Art is a wonderful way to do that and we sincerely thank OASIS for their role. We believe what follows helps illustrate useful concepts and ideas. Enjoy!
Joy Loving, ClimateAction Alliance of the Valley liaison for the 50by25 campaign
Artists were asked to create art which depicted our valley in the future. Some chose to show valley scenes which are beautiful and hopefully will remain so. Some chose to show sustainable practices which will maintain the beauty in our valley. – OASIS
1st Place Winner
Four Seasons in the Valley
2nd Place Winner
My thoughts when deciding to create this piece for the show: Things that we often take for granted but shouldn’t. Like the beauty of the changing seasons in our valley. Keep it green and keep it clean, that we, and future generations, may continue to enjoy the seasonal changes and renewals in the Shenandoah Valley.
Natalie Darling Four Seasons in the Valley Second Place Award
On a gorgeous sunny and cool spring day we went on a ‘field trip’ to visit some places of interest in Nelson County and take some pictures. On the way home, we drove north on the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped at the Ravens Roost Overlook to view the scene.
I have always been attracted to the many folds in the Blue Ridge Mountains and this was a great location to photograph them.
This image is an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image made from three separate photographs taken at three different exposures.
We enjoy numerous sunsets near our home but usually we are not up early enough to see summer sunrises. On this day I woke early. When I looked out the front windows I grabbed my camera and ran into our front yard to capture this sunrise. I had photographed an almost identical sunrise two years earlier.
My wife and I were out for a drive one sunny afternoon and we saw a dark cloud with ominous-looking wisps descending from it. We drove toward it for about 15 minutes looking for a place to stop and photograph it. The picture was taken in Rockingham County along Sky Road, near Greenmount.
“When the Eagle and Condor once again fly wing tip to wing tip, it will herald a time of partnership, love and healing, and the Earth will come back into balance. When the People of the Eagle help the Condor soar again, they will cease making the choices that are destroying the Earth, and their own sense of isolation, unhappiness and stress will vanish. Together, they will make a new design for the children and for future generations, for the good of all life everywhere.” – Carol Schaefer, Grandmothers Counsel the World: Women Elders Offer Their Vision for Our Planet
Excerpted from Charlotte’s artist statement about this work. Read her complete statement here.
Please find photos of the student works also featured at this show and more about the “Plastic Waste Blues” project here.
OASIS Fine Art & Craft partnered with Earth Day Every Day (EDED) to create a public art mosaic. The theme of the mosaic is the damage caused by single use plastics.
We started the process by meeting with the East Rockingham High School Advanced Art class on October 7, 2019. Elly Swecker, founder of EDED, presented the students with a summary of damage done by single use plastics, as well as alternatives to the plastic. Christopher Michael, teacher of the class, and Barbara Camph, OASIS artist, asked the students to create art work representing either concept.
The students and Mr. Michael produced fabulous, unique and imaginative pieces of art. The students’ art work was created in October and part of November, and used by Barbara Camph and other OASIS artists as inspiration for the mosaic design. Note that the students’ art work was displayed at OASIS Fine Art & Craft for two months.
In January 2020, the actual mosaic was started in the upstairs mezzanine of OASIS. The majority of the mosaic is art glass but also incorporates plastic waste. The mosaic was grouted and protected with a UV coating.
The mosaic is framed with a black steel frame fabricated by Excel Steel. It was installed in May 2020 on the East Market Street side of the Newman-Ruddell building with permission from the building owners, Diane and Jim Orndoff.
– Barbara Camph, OASIS artist, Earth Day Every Day leadership team member
In hopes of giving these creative works continued attention and impact, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is pleased to feature photos of Christopher Michael’s East Rockingham High School Advanced Art student pieces below.
City of Trash
These works were displayed at OASIS Fine Art & Craft in April and May 2020 along with an invitational show on “Visions of a Sustainable Valley” in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. More about “Visions of a Sustainable Valley” along with photos of the collection here.
CAAV steering committee member, Joy Loving, discovered this work by Gregory Johnson here on the Sightline Institute’s blogsite: Sightline Daily. Aside from its simple beauty, “it doubles as clear, concise, powerful talking points and a compelling visual guide” of a complicated and technical report.
Joy has converted Greg’s work into a slideshow for us. Click on the image above to launch a power point show of this creative effort.
“Today, interesting artistic work about climate change is popping up all over the country, in all kinds of venues. It shows up in opera houses and hip hop poetry slams, in established galleries and on-the-fly exhibitions, in off-Broadway houses and regional theatres. The goal of this blog is to track these works and gather them in one place.”
Thanks to CAAV steering committee Joy Loving for bringing this site to our attention.