Detroit-based Artist and Independent Curator Laura Earle is bringing together more than a dozen creative collaborators for a new exhibition opening at the Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield in the new year. The inspiration behind it is to regain our balance with nature to stave off climate change and foster hope for our collective future.
Earle spoke to Planet Detroit about the exhibition, “Environmentally Speaking,” and shared what we can expect to see when it opens to the public on Jan. 16, 2022.
How did this exhibition, “Environmentally Speaking,” come about?
Laura Earle: “’ Environmentally Speaking’ represents the culmination of three art exhibitions I have developed over the past few years – each one deals with different facets of the environmental situation. They are ‘Drawdown: Pathways Out of Global Warming;’ ‘Lumenality: Embodying Light,’ which I co-curated with Olivia Guterson and ‘Climate Conversations: All We Can Save,’ which I co-curated with Leslie Sobel in July 2021.
“The initial inspiration, ‘Drawdown: Pathways Out of Global Warming,’ grew out of a previous exhibition I curated, called ‘Unraveling Racism: Seeing White.’ I noted a strong connection between racial injustice and environmental injustice. There’s a disturbing disparity in how different groups of people are impacted by the effects of global warming. What I also took away from the ‘Unraveling Racism’ experience is the importance of hope– at every step when we’re discussing these tough issues, it’s crucial to balance the conversation with hope– viable solutions, actionable strategies to improve our situation and evidence of the progress that’s being made. That’s what we aim to do here with our environmental discussion.”
So each of these three pieces will come together to offer insight and solutions to environmental challenges like climate change? How are they related?
LE: “It started to take shape when I reached out to fellow artist and environmental consultant Tracey Easthope who led me to the book ‘Drawdown: Pathways Out of Global Warming.’ From there I connected other like-minded artists to use these resources as a springboard for dialog and creating artwork in a sculpted conversation approach to curation. We sought out viable solutions to climate change with a focus on what we can do today to make a meaningful difference. This exhibition, ‘Drawdown,’ opened in an Ypsilanti gallery and was set to travel, but the tour was cut short by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But even in lockdown, I never stopped working– there is so much more to do to move the needle on sustainability. Olivia Guterson and I began to collaborate on what would become ‘Lumenality,’ Together, Olivia and I explored the spiritual side of how our connection to nature uplifts and sustains us. We wanted to make space to offer hope and encouragement at such a bleak moment. ‘Lumenality’ was the result. Pieces focused on the interplay of light and shadow inspired by nature, like how fire has the power to both transform and to destroy. One piece I completed included hundreds of hand-painted and gilded butterflies that gently move as they cast shadows on the wall. It represents the loss of so many loved ones in these days of COVID.
“In the midst of this, Drawdown artist Leslie Sobel invited me to a discussion group for the book ‘All We Can Save’ – a collection of essays and works that explore environmental justice, the impact of capitalism and gender disparity on our environment. To me, ‘All We Can Save’ bridged an important gap, showing more sides of this complex issue of climate change with an emphasis on political and sociological dimensions. In ‘Environmentally Speaking’ these three pieces all come together. We investigate practical solutions, uncover societal impacts and provide a much-needed dose of hope and encouragement.”
Why is this topic so meaningful to you personally?
LE: “I think about the changes that have occurred in our climate – just in our lifetime. We are seeing the impact now and it’s easy to feel helpless against it, to not know where to begin. And, so many of our “green” habits are slippery– like recycling, for instance. Recycling’s promise of sustainability has been leveraged to increase and validate our dependence on single-use plastic. When I think about the legacy we are going to leave future generations, it’s important to do this clarifying work. So, I sought out other artists who were equally passionate about making positive changes for our future.”
Who is involved?
LE: “’ Environmentally Speaking will fill the entirety of the space at Janice Charach Gallery. It features the work of 15 artists, including me. Those artists are Nancy Cohen; Justin Cox; Kate Dodd; Tracey Easthope; Elizabeth Barick Fall; Susan Hoffman Fishman; Gina Rafaella Furnari; Olivia Guterson; Cynthia LaMaide; Laura Quatrocchi, Trisha Schultz; Leslie Sobel; Laurie Wechter and Jana Dietsch Wingels.”
What artists and mediums will be represented in this exhibition?
LE: “Each part of the exhibition is varied. ’Drawdown’ has ceramic, painting, assemblage, sculpture and installation. ‘Lumenality’ is primarily installation, painting and sculpture. And ‘All We Can Save’ features kinetic sculpture, painting, handmade paper drawings and interactive pieces. We also have a dance performance and community projects planned.”
Tell me about the connection to the community.
LE: “Well, in addition to the extensive works you’ll find in the gallery, ‘Environmentally Speaking’ includes two community projects. The first, Dear Earth, will ask the people to write letters to the earth and place them in a mailbox. Artist Susan Fishman Hoffman will create a large installation out of these letters and pictures.
“Secondly, we’ve asked artists from all over the country to contribute small environment-focused works packaged for sale through a repurposed vintage vending machine. The tiny works of art will be documented in a book I am designing. We want everyone to find a way to be inspired, engaged and empowered.”
What do you hope people take away from this experience?
LE: “ I want people to know that our narrow window is still open for making lasting change. I want to amplify insightful and hopeful voices in the climate conversation and encourage every member of our community to take care of their corner of the garden to create that positive change for all of us.”
“Environmentally Speaking” opens January 16, 2022 at the Janice Charach Gallery at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, 6600 W. Maple Road, in West Bloomfield. Family programming begins at noon. The art exhibition opens at 3 p.m. and a Tu B’shvat Seder dance performance by Shua Group and sponsored by Hazon Detroit runs from 6-9 p.m. The performance requires tickets but the overall exhibition is free and will be open until March 3, 2022.