Across the water, Peninsula Fine Arts Center consistently knocks exhibitions out of the park. I continue to be impressed by the caliber of the art and presentation with each show. ‘Environmental Impact’ is no exception. Through the show’s large scope of media, we are forced to grapple with our heavy footprint upon the earth. By including nearly every medium, the viewer is presented with our global effect and how it touches all life. Questions asking ‘how do we limit?’, ‘how do we reuse?’, ‘how do we give instead of take?’ swirled around my head. It is not a forgettable show. Even weeks after viewing this exhibit, I still find my thoughts coming back to it while buying groceries, seeing litter on the streets, and whether I bike or drive.
Sayaka Gantz’ ‘Travelers’
‘Travelers’, by Sayaka Kajita Ganz, is the first to greet visitors. Suspended from the ceiling are polar bears frozen in motion. The polar bears are shrouded in a neon blue light, reminiscent of aquariums trying to mimic a natural habitat. This particular feature sparked numerous questions of ethics and animal treatment. Beyond that, it asks if our societal addiction to plastic has morphed into a sort of idol worship – to the point where it becomes the worthy components of a gallery sculpture.
Further down the gallery, ‘Shades of Green’, by Karen Hackenberg, is a particular favorite. Using simply oil on canvas, Hackenberg gives new meaning to ‘living green’. Her depiction of discarded plastic and green glass bottles look gracefully posed against a sunset. Like Ganz’s ‘Travelers’, the presentation of our consumer culture is displayed like a museum exhibit – a harsh commentary on the items to which we give value. Rome has the Coliseum for centuries to enjoy – will our legacy be only plastic remains?
Karen Hackenberg’s ‘Shades of Green’
I asked Amber Kennedy, PFAC’s director of marketing, about the community’s reception to the show. Given the politically charged climate of environmental discussions, it is no surprise that some naysayers have expressed discomfort towards the show. However, an overwhelming display of support quickly overshadows that. Visitors are surprised by the darkness and harsh reality of ‘Environmental Impact’, but motivated for change by the end of their visit. Many viewers have come from organizations confronting environmental change or those who work to better the lives of animals. Kennedy has even observed members of that particular audience cry upon seeing works in this show.
There is no denying the power of this show, emanating from the fearlessness of the art to instruct the public. Our environmental impact is not a new concept. The news reports on it almost daily, and science has been showing statistics and projections for years. And yet, we’re still in the situation we are today. Therefore, a new avenue must be sought. PFAC’s show markets to a visual generation with a force powerful enough to distract us away from our phones. This show conveys empowerment better than any news report or statistic. ‘Environmental Impact’ is not art to make you feel good about yourself, but it arms you with the power to bring about a different future. It commands your attention and, hopefully, your actions.
Runs until January 4th at Peninsula Fine Arts Center. I urge you to go see this show, and allow it to seep into you and change you.