Susan Fishman Hoffman’s In the Beginning There Was Only Water II, acrylic and mixed media work on paper, 5 by 5 feet (left). Tracey Easthope’s The Solar Cell is part of a larger series titled The Climate Orders and the Couture Parade, featuring eight different digital costume images (right).
Susan Fishman Hoffman’s In the Beginning There Was Only Water II, acrylic and mixed media work on paper, 5 by 5 feet (left). Tracey Easthope’s The Solar Cell is part of a larger series titled The Climate Orders and the Couture Parade, featuring eight different digital costume images (right). (Jennifer Patselas and Tracey Easthope)

Environmentally Speaking is intended to deliver an empowering and hopeful approach to the challenging topic of climate change.

The Janice Charach Gallery will present Environmentally Speaking, an exhibition that brings together the work of 14 artists who share a sense of tikkun olam, or stewardship and healing of our environment. This show, opening Jan. 16, is intended to deliver an empowering and hopeful approach to the challenging topic of climate change. It features works in a variety of mediums while offering ways we might connect with and through nature to begin to heal. 

Artist and lead curator Laura Earle poses the question: “What is the legacy we want to leave for future generations? We can already see the cumulative impact of simple daily choices — so many changes have occurred just in our lifetime.”

Artist and co-curator Leslie Sobel’s Interwoven Ecologies is borne from a lifelong love for the outdoors, particularly the study of watersheds and the creatures who live in those ecosystems. Strips of paper with images of such residents from fungi to whales, illustrate how we bind together in a shared existence. The culturally Jewish underpinning of stewardship resonates, incorporating humans into these networks in order to preserve them. 

Nancy Cohen’s Between, paper pulp, ink, kozo and handmade paper, 21 by 60 inches.
Nancy Cohen’s Between, paper pulp, ink, kozo and handmade paper, 21 by 60 inches. Jennifer Patselas

Susan Hoffman Fishman’s In The Beginning There Was Only Water II visually communicates the vastness of the Earth’s beginnings while it draws on the origin stories of Genesis and the concept of dominion. This panel is part of a larger installation that is an abstract interpretation of what scientists have determined happened at the creation of the planet and for the billions of years that followed. Fishman is asking the viewer to consider our relationship with Creation to formulate a healthier connection between us and the planet. 

Nancy Cohen’s Between addresses the worsening condition of the flood plains in her home area of New York and New Jersey. Her use of handmade paper, then drawing with pulp and ink, creates a highly textured piece with gorgeous line work that interprets as grasses and reeds underwater. 

Laura Earle, Leslie Sobel and Olivia Guterson are co-curators of the Environmentally Speaking exhibit.
Laura Earle, Leslie Sobel and Olivia Guterson are co-curators of the Environmentally Speaking exhibit.

The Solar Cell by Tracey Easthope imagines a universal religious practice that is dedicated to caring for our natural planet. She’s input humanity into the environmental equation wearing a celestial and fiery costume. 

Artist and co-curator Olivia Guterson’s How You Still Love Us calls upon her Jewish and Black heritage in the patterns she saw in her Grandmother’s doilies and babushkas to African brooches and church hats. The work is remarkably precise for the materials employed. The use of negative space makes for an interesting composition as well as a place of rest. Her titles are portions of a haiku she’s written through a deep spiritual practice where she views her work as an act of service and a way to engage and spark conversation. 

Greenhouse Gases by Laura Earle presents how you might imagine gases in the atmosphere if you could actually see them. This sculpture makes the invisible concrete and therefore undeniable. 

Leslie Sobel’s Interwoven Ecologies, mixed media, stitched, glued monotype and digital print, 31 by 47 inches.
Leslie Sobel’s Interwoven Ecologies, mixed media, stitched, glued monotype and digital print, 31 by 47 inches. Jennifer Patselas
Audience Participation

Environmentally Speaking features two audience participation projects hosted at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit. Dear Earth invites the public to write letters to the Earth, which are then placed in a mailbox. Susan Hoffman Fishman will create an installation out of the letters and video record the process.

The second involves artists across the country who have created cigarette box-sized pieces of art to reflect their thoughts and feelings on the state of our environment. These pieces will be placed in a refurbished vintage vending machine and will be for sale throughout the exhibition. Artworks will be documented in a book by Laura Earle.

Laura Earle’s Greenhouse Gases, reclaimed plastic, steel and video, 11 by 5 by 11 feet.
Laura Earle’s Greenhouse Gases, reclaimed plastic, steel and video, 11 by 5 by 11 feet. Jennifer Patselas

Environmentally Speaking and Hazon will present a Tu b’Shevat Seder performance, Elements of Life: Moving Together with Nature. This one-time presentation is an artistic rendition of the Holiday of the Trees, which occurs Jan.16, in sculptural and dance form. This production takes the viewer on a seed’s journey, facing the environmental challenges of earth, wind, water and fire, to becoming the Tree of Life, the foundation on which the Jewish faith stands. 

All the costumes are thoughtfully and intricately detailed using only natural materials. This recital is created in such a way the viewer is completely immersed in the experience. 

Both the visual art and the Seder performance invite the community to action in healing our natural world. Not through scary images, which most of us have become desensitized to, but by “seducing through beauty,” as Sobel puts it. All the artists include in their work a strong spiritual practice and a sense of service to our collective home and existence. 

“We have a narrowing window in which we can make lasting change,” Earle said. “I want to amplify insightful and hopeful voices in that conversation and encourage every member of our community to take part.” 

Olivia Guterson’s How You Still Love Us, oil and acrylic on birch panel, 24 inches.
Olivia Guterson’s How You Still Love Us, oil and acrylic on birch panel,
24 inches. Sal Rodriguez
Details

Environmentally Speaking is set to open — free to the public — on Jan. 16 from 3-6 p.m. at the Janice Charach Gallery at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield. Participating artists include Nancy Cohen, Justin Cox, Kate Dodd, Laura Earle, Tracey Easthope, Elizabeth Barick Fall, Susan Hoffman Fishman, Gina Rafaella Furnari, Olivia Guterson, Cynthia LaMaide, Trisha Schultz, Leslie Sobel, Laurie Wechter and Jana Dietsch Wingels.

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