Collaboratively Painted Watercolor by Helen Klebesadel and Mary Kay Neumann, 22×30, 2020

The Flowers Are Burning…

         Oceans A Rising                        

A Collaborative Art Exhibition and Climate Justice Project 

by Helen Klebesadel and Mary Kay Neumann

Like other artists all over the world, I have spent the last month canceling and postponing exhibitions, workshops, and art events that would draw people into physical proximity to each other.  We have all been trying to figure out how to continue to share our creative work, maintain our careers and stay in touch with our art communities as we face the new normal of isolating in place for the foreseeable future.

I am delighted to share that the virtual collaborative art exhibition I created with artist Mary Kay Neumann was just launched,  as a part of our ongoing The Flowers are Burning: An Art and Climate Justice Project.”  This exhibition honors the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and reminds our audience that climate change and its consequences are even more critical today than ever.   “Oceans A Rising” is the current chapter in the in our collaborative evolution with a focus on the consequences of our global denial of climate change below the waves: our Ocean’s struggle with over-heated seawaters, acidification, pollution and human sewage that fan the flames of deadly ocean diseases.

I Can’t Stand Losing You: Melting Sea Star Series, by Mary Kay Neumann, Watercolor, 30×22, 2020

The majority of paintings in “Oceans A Rising” were created collaboratively, and are inspired by coral reefs, the most biologically diverse ecosystems on our planet. Coral are  declining  all across the world due to damaging human activities and rising temperatures.  Science indicates that coral reefs around the world could be mostly wiped out by 2050, and the habitats and greater ecosystems they support — will be gone.

In addition to the collaborative works, each of us have contributed a couple of individually painted watercolors.  The exhibit as a whole draws parallels between the COVID-19  pandemic we are all experiencing and the diseased that are killing both coral and such keystone series as Sea Stars.

Mary Kay Neumann and I  created the original  traveling exhibition and climate justice project to bring a more accessible lens through which to approach the devastating consequences of our current climate crises.  We contend that each of us can do something, (like voting for climate conscious candidates) to use what power and skills we have to make positive change.

Our website  provides education, resources, art/science collaboration, activism….and HOPE for coping with the increasing threat facing the planet as we reinvent a new normal post-coronavirus.  We ask that we remember that everything and everyone is connected, and what we do to our earth we do to ourselves, and vice versa.

As everyone who is reading this can attest, the pandemic has affected every part of our lives.  By way of example, our local weekly newspaper here in Madison, the Isthmus, is currently reinventing itself as an online publication and it is starting a reader donation program that will exclusively fund their stable of local journalists, since the advertising of a physical paper is no longer viable.  Isthmus has historically been one of the few publications that we could count on to cover the local arts scene.  I am delighted to tell you that their arts coverage continues, and it includes a beautiful review of our virtual exhibition, written by Catherine Capello, and is entitled “Warning signs:  A powerful Earth Day exhibit goes digital”.  If you appreciate the publications ongoing commitment to the political and cultural reporting specific to our Madison community, I urge you to help preserve it by joining the Isthmus readers support program. (Help spread the word like thy have helped us all these years).

Everyone is trying to do the best they can for ourselves, our families/friends and our community given the circumstances we find ourselves in.  As we face the coming months and make decisions about where we will put our energy and our resources it is important we notice where it is we see people making a positive difference in the world, sometimes at a risk to their lives or livelihood.  We must find a way to support those efforts, be they our healthcare workers and those who support them, the people in the food production and distribution systems who make it possible for us to eat, those who transportation people and the things we require, those among us who are working to help those with the least resources simply survive, the politicians that are actually working for the well-being of people over wealth, and for those in the media who are bringing us the most accurate local, national and international news and best cultural of productions from a distance.  Together we will be creating a new normal that will define the world we live in.  Let us try to do it well….and to do it better.

Our art exhibition and project take the perspective that we all have something to offer the world if we choose to, and that we must figure out how to work well in collaboration to do it. Mary Kay and I are artists so one of the things we offer is our art.  We  invite you to engage with our paintings, witness the messages being sent from the Ocean, and ponder:

What do YOU love that needs protecting?
What are you moved to DO about it? ​

Sounds of Silence I, by Helen Klebesadel, watercolor, 22×30, 2020.