By Huck Fairman
As most readers are aware, man’s activity, and particularly his emissions from fossil fuel usage, are warming the earth – the atmosphere, the oceans and the continents. Many residents are doing their part and more to help address, publicize and correct the situation.
But among the more striking efforts to bring these situations before the public is in The Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a 20-minute drive west of New Hope. The museum, a work of art in itself, is displaying a show, “Rising Tides: Contemporary Art and The Ecology of Water,” which presents a number of artists, painters and sculptors, who have interpreted both the condition of oceans and other water bodies along with the species living in them.
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, founded in 1970 to educate the public about environmental issues impacting our planet. To commemorate this event, the Michener Art Museum is featuring work, into next January, by contemporary artists from the Bucks County and greater Philadelphia region who are investigating the effects of global warming, climate change, pollution, and related environmental concerns about water and aquatic species. The concerns of these artists are expressed in large-scale paintings, works on paper, sculptures and installations. The exhibition, at the same time, celebrates the power of art to visualize ecological crisis and global change, as seen through the eyes of seven local artists.
The particular problems which the Delaware River, but also many other bodies, face include: contamination by plastics, resource extraction, unsustainable fishing, flooding, and the absorption of poisons by flood waters, as well as climate change. The Delaware River has long been a powerful local resource that has been both idyllic and industrial. These changes to the river and coastal waters have profoundly changed them, reducing their availability for our usage, but also threatening the survival of residing species. These changes come, of course, on top of sea level rises, global warming, and the heat-driven storms battering coasts around the world.
Among the works exhibited is an installation by Stacy Levy of collected Delaware River water, in bottles, which depicts, beautifully, both the pollution and the flooding beyond the banks of today’s river.
A second work in the exhibit is Pat Martin’s “Floating Reef,” a depiction of that addresses the deteriorating conditions of oceanic ecosystems due to pollution. It offers an unsettling representation of discarded, tangled fishing nets that ominously float on the water’s surface, just above the sea life.
These two and the other artworks alert us to consider our planet’s most fundamental resources in new lights, and, hopefully, inspire us to take action to preserve them.