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While our building is currently closed to the public, we are still working on finding ways our audience can access all of our exhibits that are on display. Please follow our social media outlets and sign up for our e-newsletter for videos, images, and other fun content about our exhibits, artists, and more!

For Unnatural Causes: Art of a Critical Nature, we have created this blog along with a complimentary video tour of the exhibit. While the images in the blog include every artist shwcased in the exhibit, this is not representative of every single work of art in the show. To see every piece of art in Unnatural Causes please take time to watch the video!

*Many of the works in this exhibition are for sale! We will be providing a 10% discount on artwork sales while our building is closed to promote supporting local artists and art organizations. If you have questions about which works are for sale or anything at all please email ekohlenstein@mdhallarts.org.

 

Baltimore, Md.--Maryland artist collective 4 Alarm Artists presents the multi-venue exhibition Unnatural Causes: Art of a Critical Nature, which features works and performances by more than 30 Maryland artists and artist collectives all addressing issues related to detrimental changes to climate and biodiversity.

The show, which features different exhibitions at Maryland Hall in Annapolis from Mar. 5-May 2, at Creative Alliance in Baltimore from Mar. 7-Apr. 11, and at Carroll Mansion in Baltimore from Apr. 22-May 24, was inspired by the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the creation of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


   

 BLAKE CONROY 

Definition of Monoculture

Pollen drifts with the wind. Where it lands and fertilizes a stamen is dictated by chance. Farmers have been at the mercy of this process throughout history. They adapted it by collecting seeds from their best plants and hoarding them for use in the next planting season. This is how humans have domesticated plants. This process is under threat from new technologies. The courts in the United States have sided with large agricultural companies against the farmer. They have decided, against precedence, that there are some genes that are patentable. When the wind blows pollen from a neighbor’s field, a farmer can’t keep his seed and plant it the next year. It probably contains some genes that are someone else’s property. He risks everything because Big Ag has a track record of aggressive litigation.

My artwork “Definition of Monoculture” is about this struggle, big gov’t and multi national corps with their oversized influence vs what is good for everyone on the planet. It is also about the idea that every life is unique. Each plant in a cornfield is a unique individual. Each has a unique genetic makeup. Each has only one chance at life. Can we trust control of this to just a few companies rather than our heritage? Scientists believe people living in central Mexico started developing corn at least 7000 years ago. They developed it from a plant called teosinte. Should Monsanto have a strangle hold on corn seed because it modified the genes of this ancient crop?

Swallowtail

The Swallowtail Butterfly is a delicate creature. It is also still relatively common. So common in fact that it is mostly overlooked, except by small children. I decided to take a closer look at a single swallowtail butterfly simply because they are so often overlooked. This is a portrait of a single individual. It shows all the uniqueness of this butterfly including the wing damage it has suffered during its short but unique life. We all only get one chance at life and we should respect this is one another and not just our own species.


 

  

Lynne Parks, (left) Bird/glass collision site: 20 S Charles St.56 birds, archival print, (middle) 1 day: American Woodcocks, archival print, (right) White-throated Sparrow song sonogram:O Sweet Canada Canada Canada, drawing

LYNNE PARKS

Lynne Parks is the Outreach Coordinator for the bird conservation and wildlife rescue organization, Lights Out Baltimore (LOB), and volunteers for Patterson Park Audubon.

In addition to educational outreach and assisting with the installation of bird-friendly window treatments, she’s one of several LOB volunteers who monitor downtown Baltimore for bird/window collisions during migration.

On Nov. 3, 2019, Lynne and her walking partner, Aaron Heinsman, found fifty-one dead birds and five rescues in two and a half hours in one small area of the city. It was the worst monitoring day they’d experienced. Native sparrows are the majority of birds found in the fall, and Lynne’s data specific work reflects this. It includes photography, drawing, and a grid of the labels LOB uses to record data.

 

Lynne Parks, 56 birds, 1 day: White-throated Sparrow, Bird Tags

Three photographs show some of the birds we found that day, and one photograph shows a deadly building where some of them died. Glass shows either a clear pathway to a bird, or reflects vegetation, which appears real. As many as a billion birds die annually from window collisions in the United States. It’s one of the leading causes of bird mortality.

Lynne is a recipient of the 2013 Mary Sawyers Baker Award and MSAC Individual Artist Award in Visual Arts: Photography, 2018.


   

Janet Little Jefers, (left) Painted Wash, (middle) detail of painted wash, (right) Scissure, Archival Pigment Prints

JANET LITTLE JEFFERS

Janet Little Jeffers is an Annapolis/Baltimore-based artist specializing in digital photography. With a background in graphic design and interior design, and a lifelong fascination with travel and exploration, she explores intimate and abstract details in the natural and manmade worlds, particularly decaying manmade subjects as nature slowly reclaims them. She seeks beauty and the unexpected in the overlooked, the mundane, or the eyesore. As she explores these visual worlds, the lines often blur between the micro and the macro, the natural and the manmade. It is a reminder of how interwoven we humans are with our environment, and the vulnerability of our natural surroundings as well as our manufactured creations: ultimately, the forces of nature have the power to transform—or unmake—every object forged by humankind.

 

Interruption: Grand Staircase Escalante

I have returned numerous times to the region of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in the southern Utah desert, attracted by the remote lesser-known charms of the area, from slot canyons and petrified wood to colorful badlands. In 2017, a presidential proclamation slashed the national monument in half, slicing it into portions and removing protections for the much of the area. The once-continuous stretch of protected habitat—allowing many animals to roam freely—is now broken up by the monument’s division. In addition, the monument is home to an a bee hotspot — 660 species of bees live in the area due to its diversity of flowers. The region also contains significant ruins and areas of importance to Native American tribes, as well as sites of paleontological discovery, including dinosaur fossils over 75 million years old, and the discovery of a new tyrannosaur species in 2013. Ultimately, the excluded areas of the monument could see dramatic changes through development and mining activities, as nearly 700,000 acres of newly unprotected land could now be open to mining of coal and minerals, as well as oil and gas drilling.

My recent visual explorations of the area have focused on themes of interruption and vulnerability. For more information on how you can help protect and preserve the interests of the monument, visit gsenm.org or grandcanyontrust.org.


 

 

Hugh Pocock, One thing Constantly Changing, photograph and Installation

HUGH POCOCK

Hugh Pocock is a full time faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art and is the founding coordinator of the Concentration in Sustainability and Social Practice. He has been the MICA PALS Fellow since 2010.

Pocock’s work inhabits the space where the “natural” and the” technological” are inseparable. Organic materials, such as water, air, salt, wood and earth and the processes of labor and industry are the platforms on which Pocock’s work are built. The history and metaphor of the human relationship to natural resources, time and energy are among the issues Pocock investigates in his sculptures, installations, performances and videos.

 

One thing, Constantly Changing

One thing, Constantly changing is an installation addressing the rapid decline of polar ice that is currently underway. The work explores our connectivity to the planet using the gallery as a demonstration site for how the dynamics of heat and water are responding and adapting to our human activity.

"The Arctic ice cap is melting. Our behavior is warming the planet and causing a massive redistribution of water. In this bowl is melted Arctic ice. It was collected near Barrow, Alaska. The heat in the room is causing the water to evaporate. The heat is generated by burning natural gas and coal. Now the molecules of this Arctic ice are in this room, you are breathing them. Some of the water will rise as vapor, and join the formation of clouds. The clouds will blow across the country, forming and changing. Along the way, some of the water will fall as rain." - Pocock


 

 

Peter Stern, (left) Alluvial II and (right) EscarpmentAerial Photography 

PETER STERN

Mine Lands to Marshes: Aerial Photography by Peter Stern

In his series Mine Lands to Marshes, Peter Stern presents his aerial images of coal mining in Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River, and the Chesapeake Watershed, bringing these areas together to tell the story of their interconnectedness as a regional ecology, presented through Stern’s aesthetic eye for composition and beauty.

In these images viewers see the Mid-Atlantic from a unique and intimate perspective. Flying low, slow, and alone in his small airplane over the coal mines of Pennsylvania and the coastal landscapes of the lower Eastern Shore, he conveys an intimacy with his subjects that echoes his deep personal connection to the region.

 

Peter Stern, (left) 4974 and (right) Carbon, Aerial Photography

Flying between 500 and 800 feet above his subjects, and shooting primarily in “bird’s-eye” perspective, Stern discovered that he could create compositions with minimal reference to recognizable objects. These images occupy a place between the abstract and the representational, which he refers to as “Third Spaces.” As his preferred subject matter, these are not the sweeping vistas of natural splendor or the designed and manicured landscapes often seen in aerial photography. Rather he interprets the “in-between” spaces: the unusual and overlooked landscapes that provide deep visual intrigue.


 

  

BRIDGET PARLATO 

Bridget Parlato is a designer/artist/activist in Baltimore and sole proprietor of a freelance graphic design business, Full Circuit Studio and Baltimore Trash Talk, an anti-trash initiative. Her cause-related work is designed to raise awareness of our impact on the earth, our water systems, the animal world and each other.

The Cigarette Planet / Think About Your Butt Campaign

Baltimore activist Stephanie Compton approached BTT/FCS to create art from trash for the Baltimore Figment Festival. Together, Ms. Compton and Ms. Parlato collected cigarette butts from Baltimore streets and Parlato created the Cigarette Planet - emphasizing that butts are the most littered item on the planet.

On Earth Day 2020, Baltimore Trash Talk will team with Waterfront Partnership and Baltimore City to launch the Think About Your Butt Litter Campaign along areas of the harbor waterfront in downtown Baltimore. The graphics will accompany Terra Cycle cigarette butt recycling containers.

 

Keep it Neat from Stoop to Street

In hopes of a city-wide litter campaign in Baltimore city, Baltimore Trash Talk/Full Circuit Studio (BTT/FCS) created the “Keep it Neat from Stoop to Street” campaign. Street-level response to this concept has been 100% positive. Finding funding has not been possible. The concept has been limitedly used by the Southwest Partnership to beautify their 8 neighborhoods in southwest Baltimore. The posters feature actual southwest residents, highlighting people known to regularly clean their blocks.

The campaign bypasses the “Don’t Litter” approach and instead focuses on the “Do” aspects of cleaning up: joining together, create community while creating cleaner streets, and mutually care for the public places.

Concept, copy and design by Baltimore Trash Talk/Full Circuit Studio. Photography by Zizwe Allette.


 

  

JANET MAHER 

The name of the Greek earth goddess, Gaia, which came to mean Earth, evolved to the idea that all aspects of our planet are interconnected, affecting each other as if one organism, as many ancient spiritual traditions have taught. With the planet now, tragically, fully immersed in the Anthropocene Epoch, I choose to create artworks that abstractly reflect my ruminations about humans’ impact upon the earth and the environment’s health in relation to that of her inhabitants. I typically begin with “non-art-worthy” or otherwise conventionally rejected materials, then work formally with them in an attempt to reach what I consider to be a beautiful result. I hope that enough ambiguity remains such that others can find personal meanings/connections to my images and that the alchemy of intentional artmaking may help the situation.

The Gaia series grew from vestiges of demos I did for courses I was teaching. Back in my studio, through a series of processes and mixed media techniques, I explored the edges at which my results could be interpreted from either micro or macro perspectives.


Blake Conroy, Swallowtail, laser-cut paper

 BLAKE CONROY 

The Swallowtail Butterfly is a delicate creature. It is also still relatively common. So common in fact that it is mostly overlooked, except by small children. I decided to take a closer look at a single swallowtail butterfly simply because they are so often overlooked. This is a portrait of a single individual. It shows all the uniqueness of this butterfly including the wing damage it has suffered during its short but unique life. We all only get one chance at life and we should respect this is one another and not just our own species.


 

 

Andrea Huppert,  Uprooted series, Mixed Media

ANDREA HUPPERT 

My dad was an educator, athlete, outdoors man, and conservationist and was the catalyst for my deep love and reverence of nature. I spent much of my childhood at his side fishing, camping, boating and hiking while learning valuable lessons about our environment along the way.

After moving to beautiful Cromwell Valley in Baltimore County, I became distraught after watching a steep hillside being denuded for a housing development. I become more politically aware that year but could not stop a development that had already been approved. Two years later, I became more politically involved as a Community Activist to address the clear cutting of trees by BGE on Cromwell Bridge Road, a state-designated Scenic Byway. The battle, which lasted for almost five years, included Senate hearings and numerous meetings with BGE, State legislators, community members and other environmental organizations. Eventually BGE agreed to re-plant ‘manageable’ vegetation as mitigation for habitat loss and hillside erosion. They also agreed to notify residents in advance of their plans to cut trees on private properties (which they have a federally mandated right to do) that border electrical transmission lines. I’ve found it can require a passionate battle with “the powers that be” to try and protect our natural resources.

  

Andrea Huppert, Details from Uprooted series, Mixed Media

Uprooted

In my mixed media works I often incorporate visually symbolic natural imagery. Twigs, nests and birds, among colors and abstract forms that allude to opposing forces, constant change and the tentative nature of our landscapes.

This series of paintings was done after collecting unearthed and torn tree roots following construction “repairs” completed by Baltimore City on their property surrounding Loch Raven Dam. I live on a lane that is partially shared with the city as an access route for dam maintenance. Needless to say, I have frequently been at odds with them as well, for their lack of environmental stewardship.


 

 

Tina Hinojosa, Number 1 and Number 2, Silicon, sterling silver found plastic, fishing rope, dish soap

TINA HINOJOSA 

Mass production of plastic began about 60 years ago. Every 15 years, the amount of plastic produced doubles. We are currently producing about 300 million tons of plastic per year. Plastic can take an estimated 400 years to deteriorate, therefore most of the plastic produced still exists. Only 9% is recycled. What is not recycled ends up in landfills or pollutes our land and waterways and eventually ends up in the ocean.

I enjoy working with plastic and other recycled materials because it allows me to take some of these items out of the waste stream. While researching my next project, I found Plastic Oceans released by the United Nations, I was inspired to contact Dr. Jennifer Lavers in Tasmania for more information. Dr. Lavers has dedicated her life to studying the effects of plastic ocean pollution on the Flesh-footed Shearwaters on Lord Howe Island. Currently, 100% of expired chicks examined have plastic in their bellies. Dr. Lavers was nice enough to send me some plastic from the chicks’ stomachs. Originally, I planned to make something from that material, but I had a very visceral reaction when I received it. The items felt like treasures too sacred to alter and that they had a message of their own to send. This work, however, was created in response to this experience.

 

Each piece is slush cast in silicone and filled with one of the items in the top 12 of the Ocean Conservancy’s “Threat Rank Report,” published each year. Viewers are encouraged to interact with the pieces, even take them down and put them on.

The pieces are named according to their place on the Ocean Conservancy Threat Rank Report (most frequently found plastic items in the ocean)


 

  

Bridget Parlato, (left) Pollinators & Pesticides Series, (middle) Pollinators & Pesticides:Bird 2 - Dead bird and and Neonicotinoid Molecule, (right) detail of Dead bird, graphite and colored pencil on paper

BRIDGET PARLATO

Bridget Parlato is a designer/artist/activist in Baltimore and sole proprietor of a freelance graphic design business, Full Circuit Studio and Baltimore Trash Talk, an anti-trash initiative. Her cause-related work is designed to raise awareness of our impact on the earth, our water systems, the animal world and each other.

This series of drawings focuses on the problem of neonicotinoid pesticides and pollinators. Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides chemically related to nicotine that act on receptors in the nerve synapse. They are toxic to insects, mammals, birds and other higher organisms. Marketed by European chemical giants Syngenta and Bayer, neonics are the most widely used insecticides both in the United States and globally.

Despite the EPA conceding the case that these pesticides harm bees and other pollinators, they still remain on the market.


  

Janet Maher, works from Gaia Series, Mixed Media Collage Drawings

JANET MAHER
The name of the Greek earth goddess, Gaia, which came to mean Earth, evolved to the idea that all aspects of our planet are interconnected, affecting each other as if one organism, as many ancient spiritual traditions have taught. With the planet now, tragically, fully immersed in the Anthropocene Epoch, I choose to create artworks that abstractly reflect my ruminations about humans’ impact upon the earth and the environment’s health in relation to that of her inhabitants. I typically begin with “non-art-worthy” or otherwise conventionally rejected materials, then work formally with them in an attempt to reach what I consider to be a beautiful result. I hope that enough ambiguity remains such that others can find personal meanings/connections to my images and that the alchemy of intentional artmaking may help the situation.

The Gaia series grew from vestiges of demos I did for courses I was teaching. Back in my studio, through a series of processes and mixed media techniques, I explored the edges at which my results could be interpreted from either micro or macro perspectives.

 

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