Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2016

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

Intermedia

Advisor

Owen F. Smith

Second Committee Member

Susan Smith

Third Committee Member

Gene A. Felice

Abstract

What has been called the Anthropocene epoch is the first period of time in which human activities and technological advances have measurably contributed to climate changes. It is common to live in the shadow of industrial architecture. The landscapes we live in and the changes to our air, soil, and water quality are interconnected. Our bodies are made up of cells moving through the world, but the world also moves through us. I’m interested in how our environment changes us and what we can do to change our environment.

An exploration of book forms and by extension the many forms of reading has caused me to expand my research to incorporate how we also might read a landscape or a body. That research has led me to consider large circles of influence such as commerce and government to fully understand changes to the environment. My socially engaged art spins out from these larger circles of influence.

The three works I’ve created for the grad show, Living Scrolls, A Necklace of Farms, and Compost Head, are connected by the thesis premise. Each piece offers a unique shift in perspective as it engages the intersection of life and art. Together, they are an invitation moving from a gallery space out into the world.

The Living Scrolls project is an installation that looks at our interaction with the environment from a historical perspective. It is a sort of conversation between Arcadian and Utopian views of the landscape; it reflects technological advances and their effect on the environment in the Anthropocene.

A Necklace of Farms moves beyond a passive viewing experience in a gallery to one of engagement with systems. Silk-screened prints are used as both wallpaper and as a cover for booklets containing a model ordinance that prohibits genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Gallery visitors can take the booklets home with them in hopes that the ordinance will be shared with the community of the gallery viewer. Each new community that adopts such an ordinance will become part of a network of communities. Eventually, a barrier against the spread of unwanted pollen caused by GMOs will begin to grow across the state.

Compost Head is a redesign of a sculpture I made in 1996 as part of Environmental Arts, a show that took place in Brockton, Massachusetts, at the Fuller Museum of Art. The original sculpture represented the creative thought process, the layering of ideas and their transformation with time. In the context of the grad show the piece can also be seen as looking at a body’s relationship to the landscape and the symbiotic nature of life, reflected in compost’s constant flux. The compost material in the head rises and falls as it decomposes and the public adds new material.

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