I don’t want to just make pretty art

When I was taking printmaking classes at the university level, I was an anomaly.  My images were full of colors and curves, few straight lines, and no black. In the relief printmaking class, skulls and angst were typical. When I put my relief prints up during a critique, they garnered few comments.

Part of this was the stage of life I was in (mid-30s) vs. my classmates (late teens to 20.) Certainly art can be used to overtly communicate dark feelings. But must work have the gushing blood of Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes to make a serious statement? I think not.

In my new series, Beloved, images speak softly and quietly, but also seriously and persistently. My images will focus on the beloved areas of our world that are most in jeopardy. Many are at the edges of land and ocean. The dramatic increase in sea level since 1900 is most concerning.  Ninety percent of the excess energy trapped by our greenhouse gas pollution is absorbed by our oceans. Warmer oceans mean changes in habitat, acidification of the ocean and an increase in turbulent weather.

Elizabeth Busey, To Whom Much is Given. Reduction Linocut. 24 x 13in, Edition of 13, $375 unframed.

The first linocut in the series, To Whom Much is Given, concerns an estuary. These land areas join freshwater with the ocean in an area that provides protection for drinking water and the filtering of runoff. They protect inland communities from storm surges and flooding. Plus they are an amazing nursery for innumerable birds, fish and other animals.

We love them. We zip around their curves in fan boats, spend hours fishing on their peaceful surfaces, and feast on their crustaceans at night with our favorite beer. People from my area of the country will gladly drive many hours for the promise of their salty, moist breezes.

How do you make people care about things without shocking them? Would it be better for me to print a red “Under Threat” to make people care? People might take notice for a moment. But they wouldn’t put that linocut on their wall. Maybe gazing at To Whom Much is Given might make them turn off their lights, lower their thermostats, or demand that their state require the electric monopoly to buy back excess solar energy production.

What places in the world are your Beloved? Are they safe? What could you do to help? What would it take to remind you every day of their value and their fragility?

Read more about threats to estuaries here.

Who in the world is Artemisia Gentileschi?

2 Replies to “I don’t want to just make pretty art”

  1. Does nobody comment on these posts? I can sure appreciate the sentiment of not wanting to make just pretty art, though I must say this is a very pretty print–much better than skulls and angst, I'd say. And worthy art. I don't think it's possible to "make" people care, but having beautiful prints like this of beautiful places surely helps connect people to those places.

  2. That's my hope! Thanks for commenting — writing a blog feeling a bit like throwing pages of text out of a moving car. You never know if anyone will find them and read them.

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