By Melissa Arnold
As global temperatures continue to climb, we are unfortunately subject to more natural disasters, lack of resources, and personal discomfort. It’s a harsh reality, but it can be hard for some people to grasp.
The Smithtown Township Arts Council (STAC) is tackling the issue of climate change with a dynamic and colorful exhibit called “On the Edge” at the Mills Pond Gallery in Saint James.
Beginning Nov. 6 and running through Dec. 19, “On the Edge” will feature more than 50 works from environmental artists Pam Brown and Kathy Levine. The exhibit is part of a deeper exploration of environmental concerns through the lens of art.
“For a while now I’ve been wanting to dedicate a year to the issue of climate change and what can be done about it. We read about it and are touched by it every day, but I thought we could explore this issue through art and the beauty of our natural world,” said Allison Cruz, executive director of STAC.
Cruz met Stony Brook-based artist Pam Brown years ago through the local art community, and since then, Brown has served as a juror for several STAC exhibits. Prior to the pandemic, Brown suggested she could put together an environmental-themed exhibit with Levine, her longtime friend and colleague from New York City.
“Pam’s environmental work makes me think, and it touches my heart. I love the choices she makes,” Cruz said. “I was so excited to see this idea take shape and to meet Kathy. When I saw [Kathy’s] passion for connecting people to the environment and the way she salvages material to create beautiful art, I was hooked.”
Brown, who focuses on sculpture, said that she spent much of her childhood exploring the woods around her home.
“The environment has always been a topic of interest for me, and art is a barometer for what is happening in the world,” she said. “It’s hard not to be connected to the environment, and it’s a tragedy to see the loss of beauty.”
Brown works with salvaged material that she says has its own story to tell. Everything is made of sheet metal or sheet copper, then hand cut with scissors or shears, stitched, soldered and welded together.
One of her works included in the exhibit is “A Place Called Home,” which depicts a bird inside of a hanging basket on a branch.
“The bird is calling out, looking for a new place to call home. In the same way, populations around the world are being forced to relocate because of climate changes and disasters in their places of origin,” Brown explained.
Levine is originally from Queens, but had the unique opportunity to grow up in Spain and England, where she was constantly immersed in natural beauty.
At the same time, she was impacted by the energy crisis of the 1970s. Her electricity was cut in the evenings, leaving her to do homework by candlelight.
“I saw the way humans were able to work in harmony with the natural world and have the potential to make it even better,” she recalled, “But I also began to learn just how fragile our connection to the natural world can be, and that our impact can be positive or negative.”
Levine is a mixed media artist, including painting, photography and recycled materials in her work, to name a few. She also makes recycled paper casts of natural objects including leaves and bark, and uses a water-based method of photo transfer.
One of Levine’s pieces, “Rift,” is a cast paper cross-section of a tree that’s split in half. One half depicts the urban sights of New York, while the other side shows a woodsy and natural scene.
“This kind of work fascinates me. It’s the one thing I feel like I could never get tired of,” Levine said. “It’s inexpensive and tactile, flexible and light, as opposed to other methods of sculpture.”
While the exhibit will showcase the beauty of our world, Cruz, Brown and Levine all hope that it will inspire viewers to become more active in preventing climate change.
“It can be overwhelming to consider just how large the issue of climate change is, but it’s small changes in your own family that make a big difference, like recycling, composting and using reusable materials as much as possible,” Brown said.
The Mills Pond Gallery, 660 Route 25A, Saint James will present “On the Edge” from Nov. 6 through Dec. 19. The public is invited to an opening reception on Nov. 6 from 2 to 5 p.m. Meet the artists and enjoy an Art Talk presented by the Artists and Environmental Art Activists at 3 pm. Masks are required for unvaccinated individuals and optional for those who are vaccinated.
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free. Please use the rear parking lot off of Mills Pond Road. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.millspondgallery.org.
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