Fear Climate Change—Or Embrace Its Beauty

Paul Duda Hilary Wilder painting/ Diana Li Photo One set of pictures depicts the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: a completely ruined tennis court, a street ravaged by construction, and the exposed foundation of a house after the storm took its toll. Beside it, a floor-to-ceiling painting offers a different take on storms: beautiful landscapes and clouds and intricate patterns.

These works are in a new exhibit, Futurespace, at Artspace.

In the era of global warming and recurrent superstorms, the exhibit, curated by artist Ihrie Means, addresses the way changing weather patterns and climate have resulted in devastating hurricanes, flooding, fires, and other natural events. The exhibit features works by nine different artists, ranging from sculptures made out of tarp to live, growing moss in bamboo containers.

Means said she wanted the exhibit to draw interest from those who may not usually be interested in art. She predicted the theme would attract a wider audience.

“I wanted to find art that would spark conversations,” Means said. “In my opinion, art isn’t always the best medium to talk about scientific or political issues, but art can definitely talk about real human experiences, and I wanted to get artists with very different aesthetic approaches that created works about what lies ahead for our environment and landspace.”

Artspace co-founder Helen Kauder said at last Friday night’s opening at the corner of College and Crown streetsthat the exhibit tackles an urgent and important issue. She expressed the hope that the art would make people think about how to “live our lives in ways that are environmentally sound.”

One set of four photographs by New Haven artist Paul Duda shows the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy along the New Jersey shore. Duda said he was inspired to travel to New Jersey after he heard Gov. Chris Christie talk about how recovery was underway. Going to New Jersey showed him that some people were still far from recovering from the storm’s effects; these photographs were taken months after the storm hit.

Duda said he often aims to focus on single events that will significantly change a group of people’s lives forever. One of his first projects entailed traveling to Mexico to photograph a group of indigenous people after tourism and government action took away their land. For him, Hurricane Sandy provided a clear example of an event that would change people’s lives forever.

“A lot of these people will not recover,” Duda said. “These people need food and shelter. It’s a very difficult thing – these tragedies happen and they will continue to happen. I don’t think they’re going to away, and I think they might actually get worse, but we’ll see.”

Paul Duda Photo One photo depicts a house’s bare foundation after the storm had washed away the entire house. Duda recounted seeing a house just three inches apart: one of the houses had been uprooted and floated inland about six blocks away from the coast, landing right next to another house. The homeowner received no compensation from their insurance company: the house would only be protected if it were on the coast, but because it floated away and was no longer technically on the coast, the insurance company paid out no claims to the owner.

“These niches in insurance mean that some people lose everything,” he said. “The system is set up such that there are these loopholes, and with these loopholes, people suffer.”

Displayed next to Duda’s photographs is a large painting by Hilary Wilder, titled “Interior with Pictures, Windows, and Lamps.” Multiple scenes are depicted in the painting, and Wilder said that the painting is meant to represent an interior space: one of the landscapes might be a painting on a wall and another one might be what one would see through the window. Dispersed throughout the painting are also sections of interior design patterns to remind the viewer that the painting is supposed to be the view from an interior, she said.

Wilder said she intended the colors in the painting to be “very artificial” and “saccharine” – as if someone had used a Photoshop effect to the extreme when editing a photo. For her, the painting is meant to represent a stylized and romanticized version of storms. While some of the other artwork in the exhibit shows how much damage these storms can inflict, her work shows a different way of looking at storms as beautiful and romanticized, she said.

“Paul [Duda]’s photographs, by comparison, are really about the wreckage that actually happens after a storm, but this is about the romantic fiction of that storm. It’s a painting that’s almost aware of its own artifice: a storm isn’t really a beautiful thing, but the fiction of it – the way it’s painted in the picture – is.”

Means also noted that she appreciated the way the work was not confined within a rectangle: some patterns spill over past the edges of the painting, and she said the work fit with the exhibit’s theme because its untraditional shape conveyed the anxiety associated with storms.

Works by seven other artists – Bryon Finn, Sabrina Marques, Kevin Van Aelst, Lynn Palewicz, Stacy Fisher, Katya Kirilloff, and Noelle King – are also featured in the exhibit, which will be open to the public through January 25th.

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posted by: jtolman on November 13, 2013  6:49am

Folks who didn’t get a chance to join in the opening can come to a special event at the gallery tonight (Wednesday 11/13, 5:30-7pm). ArtSpace is kindly hosting the launch party for the Healthy City/Healthy Climate Challenge—aimed to get New Haven residents to take simple actions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also make our city a healthier, more vibrant place.