Like pollution, JEMA’s ‘Emissions & Remissions’ cannot be contained, confined or controlled (05-17-14
On view now through July 25 at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery is ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective. Most of JEMA’s galleries are housed in a series of sturdy but stylish 16″x12″x9″ aluminum carrying cases. However, there are several innovative “project spaces” that have escaped their crates. One, in fact, is in attempting to escape the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery as well.
That’s because Bethany Taylor’s Emissions & Remissions cannot be contained. “In Tacoma, the installation went outside and into the streets,” Bethany reports. But in so doing, Taylor is not just enjoining viewers to reconsider their long-held beliefs about the traditional space and mechanisms exhibited by art museums.
She is creating a compelling metaphor about the byproducts of human activities, which similarly cannot be contained, confined or controlled.
“Throughout the 20th-21st century, there is increasing evidence of humans altering the earth’s climate and environment through changing agricultural and industrial practices,” Bethany says in her Artist Statement. “Climate changes do occur naturally.However, prior to the Industrial Revolution, very few gases were released into the atmosphere due to human activities. The growth in population, the incessant burning of fossil fuels, the production and transport of coal, natural gas and oil, the decomposition of organic wastes in landfills, along with deforestation, and the raising of livestock are seriously increasing the mixture of gases which absorb and trap heat in the atmosphere. As the earth’s temperature increases, contributing greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to have a long-lasting, negative impact on the environment, drastically changing life on earth.”
So Emissions & Remissions may not be Marco Rubio’s cup of tea, but it is a conversation starter, which is, after all, the mission of all good art. “The idea becomes more important than the execution,” Bethany postulates. But admittedly, Bethany could not simply emit water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, HFCs, PFCs and SF6 in and around her JEMA box. Nor would she want to, being the environmentally responsible artist that she is. So instead, she releases fleeting images of gradual effect and change. And by using thread and pins, she creates entangled, interconnected, unraveling ephemera that embody the devastating irreversible effect that these greenhouse gases are having on the ecology and the life that it supports.
“I like the idea of ephemeral, of things that change, of making visible that which cannot be seen,” Bethany explained prior to ELEVEN’s opening on May 9. This she does by using thread and string to portray the electromagnetic rays emanating from power lines, a cloud of carbon monoxide trailing a sports car and the carbon imprint engulfing an airliner. Each of these images is connected by string to the living, endangered and dead bio-organisms that are impacted, and the depictions climb the wall, turn the corner and meander down the hall toward the door leading outside into the garden that abuts the gallery and the adjacent Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.
“I like working with material that falls apart. It allows me to change my mind and permits me to adapt to whatever space I’m given within a museum or gallery,” Bethany adds. “My recent installation work inherently represents things in flux and incorporates string or thread as a material that is expressive, changeable, and adaptable. I think of each work as a fragment of a never finished representation. Ongoing struggles, partial experiences, hybrids, fragmentations and juxtapositions are conditions I find most reflective of my experience.”
Taylor has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally. She lives in Gainesville, where she lectures at the University of Florida and teaches the Workshop for Art Research and Practice. Recent exhibitions include the aptly titled She’s Come Undone, a 2006 solo exhibition in the Hardman Hall Gallery at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia and the 2005 SOIL 10 Year Anniversary Exhibition at the SOIL gallery in Seattle, Washington. Taylor is a founder of SOIL and the recipient of both Seattle Arts Commission and King County Arts Commission awards and her writing, art and curatorial activities were recently featured in SOIL Artist-Run Gallery 1995-2005.