An artist-in-residence paints a picture of nature conservation

With each day that passes with the new leader at the helm of the United States, I grow more fearful of what lies ahead for my child and for many others. The alarming statements, executive orders, and appointments have cast a wide net that leaves almost no American unaffected. Some days the breadth of challenges seem too immense to tackle. Then, the words of Wendell Berry shake me out of our my stupor:

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

The issue that I’ve been the most absorbed by over the past year is climate change, which is also regrettably out of favor with the new administration. Because the threat of climate change is so pervasive, urgent, and increasingly politicized, it requires support from people of all professions – scientists to philosophers, educators to entrepreneurs, policy makers to painters. It’s personally given me fresh direction and purpose in my work. And now, with my six-month artist residency at a top-five natural history museum completed, I have outcomes to share that demonstrate that artists and scientists belong side-by-side to tell the story of our impact on this planet and to make a call to action.

Artist-in-residence Ashley Cecil's workspace at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Caption: My workspace at the museum.

In my personal experience, scientists’ hard work is often buried in paid subscription publications and are only decipherable to their peers anyway. What a missed opportunity. If the research was easy to access and understand, you might care about integrative taxonomy, bird phenology, and the Anthropecene. It might even change your behavior (to your great benefit). The missed opportunity is what shaped the mission of my artist residency at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH), which was to make dense science relatable to a broad audience to pique curiosity about nature and foster environmental stewardship.

Pittsburgh artist Ashley Cecil holding bird specimens. During my residency, I spent more than 500 hours digging through thousands of specimens and creating artwork that painted a picture of nature conservation. One of the topics I quickly gravitated toward was bird conservation and the museum’s work at Powdermill Avian Research Center in partnership with BirdSafe Pittsburgh. Together these entities “work to research and reduce bird mortality in the Steel City” (it’s estimated that up to one billion birds die in the US every year from colliding with windows).

Mixed media paintings of a Magnolia Warbler and Common Yellowthroat by Pittsburgh artist Ashley Cecil 2016 I created and exhibited six mixed-media paintings that each captures a local bird species heavily impacted by window collisions (details and prices for these works are available here). Each portrait is framed by a silk-screened design of both Mountain Laurel (PA’s state flower) and the iconic Pennsylvania keystone symbol. Below the paintings are replicas of the museum’s specimen tags – one for each bird of the same species added to the museum’s collection due to a window strike since 2014.

Ashley_Cecil_bird_conservation_painting_with_specimen_tag Akin to artworks from the Arts and Crafts movement, my paintings are meant to endear you to nature, to these threatened creatures, and to inspire you to get involved with BirdSafe Pittsburgh’s local citizen scientist program or a national program.

Students participating in one of Ashley Cecil's art and science workshops Caption: Students in one of the three art and science workshops I facilitated during CMNH summer camps.

Clearly, producing the original artwork was a big part of my residency, but I was also: 1. Teaching art and science workshops to museum summer camp students;

Carnegie Museum of Natural History visitors color in a mural by Ashley Cecil 2. Designing and installing within the museum a coloring mural illustrating birds of conservation concern for thousands of visitors to collaboratively fill in;

Scarf and coloring poster 3. Putting birds, botany, and science on products that spread the love of nature to wardrobes and kids crafts rooms alike;

Sample handmade products Caption: Details of four handmade products inspired by bird conservation and made by fellow Pittsburgh artists.

4. Organizing four other local artists to launch additional hand-crafted items that promote an appreciation for nature;

Ashley Cecil draws and writes on the glass of taxidermy cases in Bird Hall at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Caption: My drawing of a Red-cockaded Woodpecker and a quote by Joel Sartore – “Conjuring a world without birds is a thing I don’t dare imagine, like the death of a child. Their fate is our own.”

5. Merging words of some of history’s most inspiring writers and poets with my avian drawings on the glass cases of Bird Hall;

Sketchbook studies of nursing mammals Caption: Sketchbook studies of nursing mammals.

6. Uniting furry mothers with human mothers with a wallpaper of nursing mammals for the museum’s breastfeeding area (this will be installed in time for Mother’s Day 2017);

Ashley Cecil holds a bird specimen over a bird-safe window film sample Caption: A sample window film.

7. Contemplating how my artwork could be translated into patterns for window films to prevent birds from flying into glass;

Four Pittsburgh artist meet with Ashley Cecil at the Carnegie Museum Caption: Fellow Pittsburgh artists, Kirsten Lowe-Rebel, Gillian Preston, and Allison Glancey met at the museum to learn about BirdSafe Pittsburgh.

8. Hosting visits with people of all industries and backgrounds to show them what comes of an artist being set loose in a natural history museum.

CMNH artist-in-residence Ashley Cecil is interviewed on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live Caption: My interview on CBS’s Pittsburgh Today Live.

9. And finally, using my work to spread the word about the museum’s research and conservation efforts far and wide – Residency-related artworks and events were featured more than 20 times through online, print, TV, and radio media, including Carnegie Magazine, KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live, NextPittsburgh, Pittsburgh Magazine, the Post-Gazette, TechVibe Radio, and TribLive.

Scientists conducting field research Caption: CMNH scientists banding wild birds and collecting data.

This residency was a learning experience beyond my wildest imagination. My greater understanding of science and people’s enthusiasm for conservation and collaboration has solidified this direction in my work for the foreseeable future.

A child concentrates on coloring birds of conservation concern As scientists continue to make the Anthropocene a common concept, and the public gains access to more scientific research (for example, research funded by NASA is now available to all for free), I hope other creatives will be inspired to visualize it through their work. This, of course, will broaden our collective understanding of climate change, but it will also encourage people to connect with science and nature through art. Or better said by Oscar Wilde,

“No better way is there to learn to love Nature than to understand Art. It dignifies every flower of the field. And, the boy who sees the thing of beauty which a bird on the wing becomes when transferred to wood or canvas will probably not throw the customary stone.”


Vote to support art and citizen science workshops for urban youth

A small action on your part can have a big impact in Pittsburgh – vote with a like to support my collaboration with the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania to offer art and citizen science workshops to urban youth – Voting has closed.

ashleycecil-aswp

Good news! I’m joining forces with another outstanding nature conservation organization to offer art and science programming for youth this spring, and you can help make it happen. The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania and I are in the running for a “100 Days of US” grant through the Sprout Fund to support a series of workshops that fuse hands-on art activities with citizen science.

Watch our proposal video to learn more. Then, cast your vote today with a like in the upper righthand corner of the page – Voting has closed.

Your vote gets us one step closer to providing children with hands-on learning and direct interaction with nature to help them develop their own works of art that will tangibly be used as conservation tools in their own communities.

And, they’ll get to interact with live birds. You don’t want to rob a child of the opportunity of getting up close and personal with a live bird, do you?


Upcoming events, art and handmade goods from an artist residency in natural history

The election week was tough, to say the least. What’s an artist to do? Keep making work that connects people to nature and to science that demonstrates the need for environmental stewardship, because there’s never been a more pressing time to give our attention to findings that institutions such as the Carnegie Museum of Natural History are revealing about the health of our planet.

Since July, I’ve been making original artwork and related products inspired by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, where I’m working as an artist-in-residence. At two upcoming events, that work will be on public view and available for purchase. If you’re in Pittsburgh, I’ve got my fingers crossed that you can join me at both. If you’re elsewhere, links are included to connect you remotely.

And with that, here are the details…


boxheartshow-headerEXHIBITION OPENING: EMERGENT PATTERNS
Nov. 19, 5 – 8PM, Boxheart Gallery (4523 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224)
Join me for this public reception featuring original artworks resulting from my residency. My work will be exhibited alongside paintings by fellow nature artists Augustina Droze and Deirdre Murphy. Not in Pittsburgh? Send an email to request images and details of the artworks.

 

ha-header-v2HANDMADE ARCADE
Dec. 3, 11AM – 7PM, David Lawrence Convention Center
At this internationally renowned arts and craft show of 150+ makers, four local artists and I will be launching our BirdSafe Pittsburgh-inspired products, varying from an infinity scarf to blown glass jewelry. Purchasing these products helps us to financially support the museum’s bird conservation efforts. Buy your favorite individual items from each artist, or buy the entire set of seven products prior to Handmade Arcade and pick them up at the event. Not in Pittsburgh? My products are available online now. The other artists will also be selling their creations directly on their websites in the coming weeks. Visit Broken Plates, KloRebel, Strawberryluna and WorkerBird.

The grand idea of all of this that the artwork will:

  1. Endear people to creatures impacted by urbanization,
  2. Financially support conservation research, and
  3. Get folks directly involved in citizen science programs (like NestWatch and BirdSafe Pittsburgh).

And because this is just the beginning, I would love to hear your thoughts on how art can enhance and support science. How am I doing and how could this be better?


Art for Ocean Conservancy, Chancery Court Hotel


7.5″x11″ ink on paper
Email ashley.cecil@gmail.com for purchase inquiries


Art for Ocean Conservancy, Tulips From Pat

Tulips-from-Pat-2010

12″x16″oil on canvas
Email ashley.cecil@gmail.com for purchase inquiries


Art for Ocean Conservancy, Orangery at Kew Gardens

orangery-at-kew-gardens-march-1-10.jpg
Orangery at Kew Gardens
7.5″x11″ ink on paper
Email ashley.cecil@gmail.com for purchase inquiries


Art for Ocean Conservancy, Kenwood House Coffee Cafe

Kenwood-House-Cafe-July-2010-small

8″x10″ oil on canvas
Email ashley.cecil@gmail.com for purchase inquiries


Art for Ocean Conservancy, Whitechapel Gallery Cafe

Whitechapel Gallery
7.5″x11″ ink on paper
Email ashley.cecil@gmail.com for purchase inquiries

Now through the end of August I will be donating 10% of art sales to Ocean Conservancy, which “has assembled a rapid response and recovery team to address the human and environmental needs in the aftermath of the [Gulf Coast oil] spill.”   With an estimated 5,000 barrels/210,000 gallons of oil leaking into the ocean daily, we greatly need the expertise of such organizations.   You can also directly support their work here.


Supporting wildlife conservation

birds-of-paradise-500x299
36″ x 60″ oil on canvas
SOLD

For 114 years, the Wildlife Conversation Society has endeavored to preserve wildlife and wildlife habitats around the world through science, wildlife park management, environmental conservation and education.

Their earliest accomplishment was helping the American bison population recoup in the Western Plains.   Today, they manage about 500 conservation projects in over 60 countries and more than 200 million acres of protected lands around the world, employing more than 200 scientists.   WCS also manages the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, which includes five New York City “living institutions.” These parks reach 4 million visitors each year and assist in educating millions of schoolchildren in science and conservation issues.

The WCS website is equipped with templates for wildlife supporters to use in writing their congressman/woman about conservation issues.   You can also donate online to support their “commitment to protect 25 percent of the world’s biodiversity.”   That’s no small undertaking, for which I’m certain your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Ps- Take a look at another animal welfare group, Paw-Talk, that graciously republished this post.   Thanks for helping to spread the word.


the ‘Ville gets green(er)

Louisville city skyline
2′ x 4′ oil on canvas
SOLD
See all artwork available for sale.

By guest writer, Mark Appleberry, of Sustain (a business dedicated to providing the resources necessary for families and individuals to live more sustainably).

“Green living can mean so many different things. It can start with buying the first re-usable shopping bag, switching to toxic free cleaning, buying from local farmers, or even giving second life to an object instead of buying new.   It starts with small decisions that can have significant impacts on the future.   Everyone we meet that is making steps towards sustainability is an inspiration.   We would like to acknowledge a few our friends, right here in Louisville, who are making great strides forward and inspiring hope along the way.

Ben and Julie Evans – The aspiring filmmaking team, along with another friend, Mark Dixon, are the creative genius behind “Your Environmental Road Trip [YERT],” www.yert.com.   These three took a year to visit all 50 states, putting themselves through extreme eco-challenges, interviewing over 800 environmental leaders, experts, and regular citizens from all walks of life, and documenting sustainability across America – as they like to say, “the good, the bad…and the weird.”   The documentary is pregnant with hope, laughter, and over 500 hours of “green” footage.   It is slated for release in full at the end of this year.   For now, satiate your curiosity with over 50 short fun films on their webpage.   For anyone interested in helping with the feature film, contact Ben at ben@yert.com.

Paul Schellenberger – An 18 year veteran of vermicomposting (worm farming), Paul is a passionate environmentalist excited about educating people about worm farming and composting in general.   Paul consulted from the outset with Breaking New Grounds, a local Louisville vermiculture operation.   You can find BNG’s compost at local Heine Brother’s Coffee shops.

John W. Moody – John is enabling sustainable living by connecting people with local farmers.   His involvement with the Whole Life Co-op., as well as his educational seminars, convey the message of “simple living”.   John regularly speaks on composting and encouraging people to think before carelessly buying, consuming, and discarding.   He and his wife also speak to young parents about raising happy, healthy children.   You can learn more about what John is doing by exploring www.wholelifeco-op.com

Green Convene – The Green Convene is non-partisan coalition to promote sustainable policies in local government.   Led by an informal steering committee of local volunteers, the Green Convene is working to coordinate and bring together the many local Louisville movements addressing a variety of sustainability issues in the Louisville Metro area.   They are always in the market for volunteers and participants and you can join here.

These are just a few of the great people and organizations in and around Louisville dedicated to helping Louisville become a greener, environmentally friendly community and we’re proud of their efforts!”

Thank you Mark!   I’ll add to that list the Green Building, Ohio Valley Creative Energy, and BrightSide (supported in part by Gallopalooza), all of which are highly worthy of your clicks.


Calendar doubles as a garden kit

5″ x 5″ watercolor in a 12″ x 12″ frame
Click here to see picture of the framed painting.
SOLD
See all artwork available for sale.

If I had done any shopping for Christmas whatsoever,   I would have bought several of these eco-friendly planners from Olive Barn.   When the month passes, bury the page in your yard and wait for the wildflower illustrated on the page to manifest in real life.   Wow, what can’t be green(er) these days?   It’s great to see everything from construction companies to restaurants going green.   If I were in college right now, I would be excited about increasing job prospects in environmentally focused industries.   Speaking of which, I’ll be profiling some new green trends and businesses in Louisville very soon.

Ps-I suppose it’s not too late to gift these calendars to friends and family.   Act surprised my peeps!


‘Climate Change on Canvas’ at UN conference

As excited as I was to be a part of the Oxfam “Climate Change on Canvas” project, I was disappointed to hear outcomes from UN the conference left something to be desired.   Theo Ratcliff of Oxfam International reported, “The conference in Poznan was meant to be a key milestone between the start of negotiations in Bali last year and their conclusion at Copenhagen next year. But it has exposed a shameful lack of progress. By now, developed nations were meant to have outlined their plans for emissions reductions, finance and technology; they have failed to do so.”

I heard a similar report on NPR, which described failure between wealthy and developing countries to agree on collaborative efforts to fund and otherwise positively affect climate change (such as the Adaption Fund).   A reporter for the San Fransisco Chronicle summed up the conference with, “…they came, they talked and they departed. And that’s about it.”

For a glimpse of the conference in review on a lighter note, check out pictures of the “Climate Change on Canvas Project on the Oxfam flickr page.   I was truly impressed with the Oxfam initiative to engage artists, students and community groups in this public awareness campaign.   They get a spot in my top 5 nonprofit groups.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qpW9ZTNNJg


‘Climate Change on Canvas’

finished-Oxfam-commission-1-500x335px-300dpi
48″ x 72″ oil on canvas
SOLD

I am so incredibly honored to publish this post. This enormous painting was commissioned by my favorite kind of client, a nonprofit organization. I was selected by Oxfam America to create an image that represents the connection between climate change and poverty. The work will also represent Oxfam America’s Climate Change on Canvas project at the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Poznan, Poland in December, 2008.

Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice. The goal of the Climate Change on Canvas project is to use artwork and visual imagery to challenge the UN delegates to recognize the effects of climate change on the world’s poorest communities. Lacking sufficient resources, poor communities are least prepared to adapt to the most severe impacts of climate change. To learn more about Oxfam’s climate change campaign, visit www.oxfamamerica.org/climate

Oxfam America is just one of many Oxfam International affiliates who will be creating canvases for this project. Similar works of art will travel from all over the world created by professional artists, unknown artists and members of developing communities to be exhibited at the UN conference, representing a unified global movement around climate change and poverty. This piece will go to Poland and come back to the US where Oxfam plans to use art as a mobilization tool around climate change in 2009.

You should know that Oxfam is also looking for similar works from art students from around the country. If you are interested in learning more about this component of the project, email Oxfam’s Lead Student Organizer, Gabriel Barreras, at gbarreras[at]oxfamamerica[dot]org.

Thanks to Oxfam staff for contributing content for this post.


World Water Day 08


9″ x 12″ watercolor, SOLD.
See all artwork available for sale.

This Saturday, March 22nd, is World Water Day. The UN initiated international day of awareness has sparked activities around the globe such as “World Water Walks,” art competitions, and documentary film viewings. The latter is happening in Louisville this weekend at Baxter Avenue Theater. ‘FLOW (For Love of Water),’ co-produced by phenomenal local arts rock star, Gill Holland (of Gallery NuLu and sonaBLAST! Records), will be shown for a week at the theater beginning tomorrow.

Snag tickets early for Friday’s showing to make sure don’t miss the opportunity to meet the film’s director, Irena Salina, who was apparently tear-gassed in addition to receiving a death threat while making the film. I just bought my tickets online for the 7:30 showing on Friday. See you there?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyCHdM5h0y4


Mother Nature’s free handouts overlooked


2.5″ x 10″ mixed media painting
SOLD
See all artwork available for sale.

Since it seems increasingly rare, I must make a point of something worthwhile airing on TV: Outstanding cinematography and environmentalism have coalesced in the Discovery Channel’s breathtaking, eye-opening TV series simply titled “Planet Earth.” This is certainly worth a trip to Blockbuster or belongs in your Netflix queue.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0K7mJblnhSE


While watching one of the episodes recently, I was reminded that there is a tremendous amount of daily activity on our planet that we benefit greatly from, don’t contribute to, and get for absolutely free. We’re all painfully aware of the cost of using natural resources such as oil and natural gas, but did you ever think of the free services we receive, such as pollination for example? Probably not since the connection between the existence of much of the vegetation around us and the bees who carry and deliver pollen, like free mini UPS workers, is not obvious (again, maybe because it’s not affecting our wallets).

Well, you may have thought about if you’ve seen the ‘Bee Movie.’ The importance of pollination was highlighted in the animated film when the bees practiced nonviolent resistance by halting their pollination until the humans agreed to stop commercially producing honey by means of forceful bee slave labor. The boycott resulted in a domino effect of dry lifeless landscapes, and ecological and economic sickness of immense proportions (covers quite spectrum of issues, huh? environmentalism, labor laws/human rights, social community organizing).

If you care to engage in two starkly different cinematic approaches to gaining an appreciation and understanding of our environment and the role we play, pop some popcorn, get cozy and make a movie night of it. Hmmm, good idea Ashley!