New work, new direction: “Broken Waters”

For over two years I’ve been fully immersed in data about the state of the natural world. Being in science labs and “in the field” has filled me with overwhelming worry and dread about what’s to come for my kids, your kids, anyone alive today or yet to be born. I’ve often had to think about the appropriateness of the resulting artwork for general audiences, but now that my last residency is wrapped up the filters are going out the window. It’s time to process in my studio what it means to be human, fertile, godlike, destructive, panicked and deeply, profoundly grateful.

In this new chapter you’re going to see more provocative work. I’m eager to focus on difficult truths versus leading with agreeable aesthetics of the natural world. Allowing myself to dig into (or perhaps wallow in) the darker trains of thoughts about human impact on nature has also inspired me to write about the work on my easel. And with that, I give you the first finished painting and two written reflections. I hope to hear what it elicits in you.

painting titled "Broken Waters" by artist Ashley Cecil detail of painting titled "Broken Waters" by artist Ashley Cecil detail of painting titled "Broken Waters" by artist Ashley CecilBroken Waters
36″x48″ acrylic and oil on canvas
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One Water
All of the water on this planet is all that’s ever been. What was once frozen in a glacier now pumps hot in your blood. What once festered in a swamp now comes out of your showerhead. The water of Jesus’s miraculous wine is still here, now in your toilet.

Until our upper hand on nature, water was self-purifying. The stones and roots and currents and clouds cleaned it as cycled between piss and holy water.

We’re steeping this substance of life like a tea, but no creation of god can remove the bits and pieces and blackness. No, now like a drop of ink in my paint cup, the darkness will swirl in tiny hurricanes until it dissipates between every molecule – a little everywhere for everyone.

Hell’s Cold Restart
Demons and their disease featured in your fiery scripture to keep children in line wait in unexpected places. Places of uninhabitable cold.

Undertakers frozen in their tracks and flattened by the weight of earth’s crust patiently wait their turn. They wait for us to signal for them with our digging and fires. We’ve gone mad looking, actually looking for them.

Down we’ve gone to exhume the flora of another era. We bring it up to the land of the living and light it on fire – a smoke signal to summon them. It wafts in the atmosphere, swirling in place like a snuffed candle into a glass dome.

Now their glacial and permafrost prisons crumble. You can hear the locks click open just before the ice calves into the sea. These first warnings are usually for coastal inhabitants – beware of rising water! But that’s simply their lure to get us to huddle together inland where the dying will circulate faster.

All this water that was once holdup at either ends now invites the vectors of disease to carry the likes of anthrax and bubonic plague to your crowded elevated refuge. There, all manners are death, both of the body and mind, are highly contagious.

The fire we started was an invitation to the devil to reign over this warming eden, a hell of our own making freed from ice.


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?


Art for the birds

Wood Thrush painting
Original artwork used to develop a textile pattern.

 

No really, this is about art that supports bird conservation.

About two months into my artist residency at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CMNH), ideas for artwork that I would translate into a new infinity scarf AND a coloring poster got my wheels turning about other Pittsburgh artists who also might like to make natural science-inspired products. After all, why should I have all the fun?

bird conservation inspired textile pattern
The finished textile pattern being printed on fabric for scarves.

 

Thank goodness it wasn’t one of those ideas that only makes sense in my head, validated by the fact that FOUR fantastic makers enthusiastically raised their hands to make new products visually related to a bird conservation program closely connected to CMNH – BirdSafe Pittsburgh.

In partnership with several local organizations, BirdSafe Pittsburgh is “working to research and reduce bird mortality in the Steel City.” What’s the problem? It’s estimated that up to one billion birds die each year in the US from colliding with windows, which is one of the leading causes of human-induced deaths among birds.

Yes, that’s utterly depressing, but I’m getting to the warm-fuzzy part. Between now and this year’s Handmade Arcade, the boss ladies listed below and I are in production mode making our goods, which will be launched at Handmade Arcade. These items, varying from blown-glass jewelry to a silk-screen print, will be available individually and as a complete set (if you can’t make it to Handmade Arcade, you will be able to order the individual products on our respective websites).

BirdSafe Pittsburgh-inspired coloring mural
My BirdSafe Pittsburgh-inspired coloring poster.

 

Our put-a-bird-on-it-collaboration will help birds in two ways:

1) A portion of our sales will be donated to support the aforementioned conservation efforts. For example, our contribution will help pay to fly wild birds through a flight tunnel that tests the effectiveness of bird-friend window prototypes, and rehabilitation of stunned birds at a local wildlife center.

2) We’ll be signing interested shoppers up for the BirdSafe Pittsburgh citizen science program, which entails monitoring your home for window collisions and reporting your findings, and/or walking designated routes throughout Pittsburgh looking for birds that have collided with windows (dead birds are brought to the museum to be added to their collection; captured live birds can be taken to the Animal Rescue League’s wildlife center to be rehabilitated and released). If you’re so inclined, go ahead and sign up now. Here’s a national program and the Pittsburgh-specific one.

And with that, I’d like to introduce my creative cohorts making art for the birds with me (and tagging the process via #artforthebirds on the social interwebs):

WorkerBirdKim Fox of WorkerBird

 

strawberrylunaAllison Glancey of strawberryluna

 

KLoRebelKirsten Lowe-Rebel of KLoRebel

 

Broken PlatesGillan Preston of Broken Plates

 

It’s such an honor to work with these talented women and the BirdSafe Pittsburgh program coordinator, Matt Webb. There’s hardly a more blissful combination of things I love than art and ornithology. Ahhh!

Now, onto sewing scarves…