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Is there an ‘ecological self’? Is there a place within us that remembers we are nature? Can this ‘self’ hold the answers about how to live sustainably within the cycles and limits of our home planet? I explore these questions through the art project Portrait of the Ecological Self.
Since the ‘ecological self’ is not always visible in our physical form, we might not see ourselves as especially connected to nature. To create the ecological self portraits, I use a survey to uncover the person’s personal nature-based images and symbols. I then combine those images and symbols with natural materials and the person’s detailed portrait, creating a vision of the self that is interconnected with all of nature. In this view, the traditional portrait changes to include more than the physical body and now includes nature’s materials, rhythms, and other species. Wasp paper becomes skin and roots grow from feet. We now may become a cave, a bee, or a bush, challenging even the notion of ‘self.’
Many people feel disconnected from nature. Through the ecological self portraits – I write this connection into the skin so that it may not be forgotten.
For this Hatchfund project, I’m coming to you to request funding to help put new work from my Ecological Self Portrait series into durable casting material. As a sculptor, I miss opportunities for exhibiting if my work cannot be placed outdoors. These materials are costly and so I’m using crowd sourcing to help get me to my minimum goal of $2500 which will allow me to cast in a resin enforced concrete. If I reach my my maximum goal of $5500, I will be able to cast one of the portraits into bronze.
The ‘portraits’ that I am working on now are inspired by my collaboration with Dr. James Coffman, Ph.D., at the MDI Biological Laboratory on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Jim is researching how chronic early life stress can predispose a person to a variety of inflammatory diseases and more rapid aging, a phenomenon known as ‘developmental programming’ of health and disease. I was invited to create work that responds to Jim’s research as part of the Annual Art Meets Science exhibit held during 2015 on the campus of the MDI Biological Laboratory. I’m creating a series of images inspired by his work.
As part of the collaboration, Jim also agreed to have an ecological portrait done using his image. When I create an ecological-self portrait, I first interview the person, looking for particular images, materials and symbols from nature that the person has a strong connection to. The person then fills out the ecological self survey and we discuss the results. I then take detailed measurements of the person’s head for the portrait. When I create the portrait I combine the portrait with materials or patterns from the images and symbols that came up during the interview and survey process.
This project inspired two portraits. One using Jim’s portrait combined with the patterning from zebra fish tail, a key element of his research; and the other portrait, for the first time ever, goes from the animal to the human, starting with an image inspired by the zebrafish larvae that then becomes an image of a pregnant woman.
These sculptures will be exhibited this summer as part of the Arts Meet Science 2015 exhibit at the MDI Biological Labratory. The sculptures may also be placed in other public spaces on Mount Desert Island, Maine, as part of the program Art in Public Spaces, an organization which curates the Arts Meets Science exhibit, the Sculpture “Out and About” project and other art inspired events in public spaces.
The work needs to be completed this spring to be included in the exhibit, so please contribute to the project and share with friends to help me reach my May 30th deadline.