December 21, 2023
A New Exhibition Explores Climate Change Through Craft
There’s an inextricable link between craft and environmental awareness. For multidisciplinary sculptor Adrien Segal, this approach to making serves as a negotiation between a deep familiarity with materials like wood, glass, ceramics, and even ice, and a willingness to continually learn from their inherent, sometimes unexpected properties. “This back-and-forth allows me to respond to and guide different elements into intentional expressions of form that develop and emerge as the process unfolds,” she says. The artist’s resulting works often reflect natural patterns and the impact of human interventions, a negotiation if there ever was one.
It would seem only appropriate that Segal, along with fellow craft-led artists Susie Ganch, Courtney Mattison, and Meghan Price, should utilize ecology and climate as such potent subject matter. All four talents are currently exhibiting as part of Contemporary Craft’s Climate Awakening: Crafting a Sustainable Future group show. On view through January 13, 2024, at the Pittsburgh museum, the exhibition surveys the creators who each address and shed new light on this complex suite of issues in their own way. While Mattison utilizes her expertise in ceramics to build large visceral works commemorating marine life, Price renders consumer products like athletic shoes in geologically patterned relief sculptures. Ganch’s Pile Series: Remember Me, Katrina holistically embodies and depicts the detritus of the superstorm hurricane.
Artist and ocean advocate Courtney Mattison handcrafts intricate, large-scale ceramic works—such as the glazed stoneware and porcelain Surface Tension 7 sculpture (2020)—to visualize climate change and the fragility of marine life.
For Segal in particular, it’s a question of harnessing both scientific research and emotion to reveal changes in topography that occur over time. Her 2017 Molalla River Meander sculpture stems from a data visualization of how the Oregon waterway drastically altered course over a 15-year period. “I’m [trying] to make these ephemeral and temporal patterns accessible to the body in physical space, so they can be experienced by people who can walk around and intuitively take in what they represent,” she says. “These [realities] are often quantified, measured, and tracked scientifically in the form of data, which leaves out the emotional connection we have with the natural world.” She sees her art as one way of bridging this gap.
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