December 8, 2019

Fracking Paradise

'Fracking Paradise: Original Lies And The Temptation To Plunder', 2019, hand-stitched cotton thread on linen, 12'' x 16''

"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction." -Rachel Carson 

My work, and this piece in particular, is very much informed by woven textiles, and I'm describing it as a needlework tapestry. While most of the figures and objects are rendered more or less naturalistically, I stitched the background with repeating stylized floral designs, and I filled in the land and sky with stitches that try to mimic weaving.

'Fracking Paradise: Original Lies And The Temptation To Plunder' is influenced by my maternal grandmother who understood the deep misogyny of the Adam and Eve myth and who read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring the year it was published. It's the culmination of my Fracking Weld County series, with visual ideas converging as a sort of contemplation on how we've gotten ourselves to the brink of creating an unlivable planet. The myth of Genesis is one of the stories that illustrates how we've become disconnected from both the natural world and our inner nature. The idea of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil points to duality and describes our separation from wholeness and the emergence of egoic identity stories that divide the world into parts to be conquered. The massive irony is that this narrative arose from the left-brained linear 'knowledge' of the patriarchal religious structure. It describes humanity's separation from the natural world by scapegoating the feminine, demonizing nature, and designating human sexuality ('man born of woman') as original sin. Without the dualistic view of the world, the tree and apples represent the abundance, generosity, and intelligence of nature. 

The central figures are taken from a 14th c Italian fresco by Bartoli di Fredi called 'The Creation of Eve'. I discovered the image in the book 'The Androgyne, Reconciliation of Male and Female' by Elemire Zola. Contrary to the title of the book, the idea that Eve is created from Adam's rib disempowers the feminine and reflects women's second class status as being merely adjunct human beings. I remember my grandmother asking, "if Eve came from Adam's rib, why aren't men missing one of their own ribs?".

Some of the images make compelling pairings of visual comparison and symbolic contrast. The first pairing of note is of the prehistoric goddess statue on the lower left (taken from the cover of The Chalice and the Blade, another book that my grandmother admired) and the oil rig carrying an exit sign on the far upper right. Another important pairing is of the serpent- which, rather than being the agent of deception from the Bible myth, here represents the universal Kundalini energy that is present in everything, connecting earth and cosmos- and the fracking pump, which represents the unsustainable and destructive extraction of fossil fuels, a form of energy that is inextricably linked to our current climate crisis. 

Other images include three critically endangered species: the Actinote zikani moth from the Amazon rain forest, a Brown mouse lemur, and a Pitcher plant. The lemur hangs on a fig tree near the sleeping (unconscious) Adam. Its leaves surround his head, foreshadowing the expulsion from paradise and the attendant shame that needs to be covered up. A plastic bottle lies on the ground, a surveillance camera points at Eve, and a small fighter jet hovers above the fracking equipment, close to a waxing crescent moon. The border is of a repeating ankh, bomb, and thermometer. 

Here are the words of Sandra Steingraber - biologist, poet, and environmental activist:

We are all musicians in a great human orchestra, and it is now time to play the Save The World Symphony. You are not required to play a solo, but you are required to know what instrument you hold and to play it as well as you can. You are required to find your place in the score. What we love we must protect. That's what love means. From the right to know and the duty to inquire flows the obligation to act. 

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