Inspired by our Feature Artist Heather Freitas’ Solo Show, Wasteland, which opens again this Third Friday, November 18th, at First Studio at 631 North 1st Avenue, I want to introduce you to Lauren Strohacker and Kendra Sollars of the Phoenix area. Strohacker and Sollars are well-known environmental and eco-artists who’s collaborative installation Animal Land has been traveling the State of Arizona for over two years now. In 2014 alone, Animal Land public art events included Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale, Tucson Wildlife Center in Tucson, Liberty Wildlife in Scottsdale, ASU Tempe, and Clarendon Hotel for Artel.
Last month, UCLA’s Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS) invited them, Strohacker says, “to do a three night public activation of UCLA’s residential area known “The Hill” in conjunction with the symposium “Earth Now: Earth 2050″, projecting 14 species in 5 locations. We also participated in the panel discussion ‘Public Art & Visual Narrative’ on the last day of the symposium.” The event marked the launch of LENS, on October 18th, as part of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.
The goal is, of course, to awaken through LENS story telling and dialogue about environmental issues as we move forward into this century plagued by global warming, an increasingly harmful human carbon footprint, and a growing number of species facing extinction.
On their website, LENS says it is “an incubator for new research and collaboration on storytelling, communications, and media in the service of environmental conservation and equity. . . At LENS, we begin with the idea that these challenges are as much cultural and political as they are scientific and technological (https://www.ioes.ucla.edu/lens/).”
The evening of Friday, October 17th, UCLA’s wanderers could see the Animal Land installation projected on buildings in The Hill area, inviting curiosity and discussion about the launch.
Back in 2014, Strohacker and Sollars were interviewed about how they conceived of the installation, by Blue House Coffee Art Blog. When asked “What effect have you found eliminating the color, sound and background out of your footage as had on you and your audience?” both Lauren and Kendra spoke:
LS: The animals become something otherworldly, detached from reality without color and inverted lights and darks. Originally, I was inspired by trap camera images, the ghostly images of something natural captured in an unnatural way. Natural vs. unnatural is a common theme with Animal Land, especially when many of us have that deep seeded fear that one day genuine interactions between humans and non-human animals may not exist.
KS: The aesthetic, almost a photographic negative, momentarily takes the viewer out of reality. You aren’t just looking at a wild animal anymore. You’re looking at what may just be the memory of that animal or perhaps it is all in your imagination. Eliminating those natural attributes (color, sound, and size) allow the viewer to slow down and contemplate their thoughts and feelings about wildlife in reaction to our work.
(BLUE HOUSE COFFEE ART BLOG, May 2014 – “Animal Land” – Lauren Strohacker and Kendra Sollars (May 7, 2014). The Interview can be found in it’s entirety at:
Lydia Millet’s “Good Grief”
Lydia Millet, a novelist and conservationist writer and editor for the Center for Biological Diversity, in Tucson, has elegantly crafted the featured essay in LENS Magazine (October 30th) after the Symposium. “Good Grief: Style and story in the age of extinction,” is a stunning expose of the difficulties we have in embracing the tragic story of loss of species in our wild through extinction. Of being able to tell it’s stories. Though the essay has to be read in it’s entirety to be fully appreciated, I wanted to give you an excerpt as she embraces the need for compassion and love for the creatures we’ve lost:
Many of you are well aware of who we’ve lost lately. Some are more famous to us for being gone than they ever were while they walked the Earth. The dodo, the dusky seaside sparrow, the Tasmanian tiger, the great auk, the golden toad. Others, like the passenger pigeon, were once so well-known and familiar that we saw them and shot them and ate them by the millions. These are the celebrities of extinction, the poster children. And of course there are many more recent extinctions of less celebrated plants and animals.
But the dusky seaside sparrow and the passenger pigeon have something in common besides being birds, American, and extinct: we named the last of them. We gave them names, not only species names but individual names.
Martha was our name for the last passenger pigeon, and she died in the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914. Her body is on display at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. The last dusky seaside sparrow was Orange Band, who died at Disney World on June 17, 1987. His body rests in a glass bottle at the Florida Museum of Natural History. The species was officially declared extinct in 1990.
On September 26, 2016, the last known member of a rare tree frog species from Panama, a species known as the Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog, died at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. He was named Toughie by those who tended to him and believed to be, like my daughter, 12 years old.
These were the last of their kind. As was Benjamin, the last Tasmanian tiger, Lonesome George, the last known Pinta Island tortoise, Celia, the last Pyrenean ibex…there’s even a name for them as a group, for all of the creatures known to be, or have been, the final individual of a now-extinct species: endlings.
We have the painful privilege, the executioner’s guilt of watching the endlings go. Occasionally young children learn about Martha and Orange Band in school. They take field trips and gaze at their pictures, or even their partially reconstructed and preserved bodies, in museums. They know these animals as tragic figures.
I strongly recommend you read the essay in it’s entirety at https://lensmagazine.org/good-grief-9087176b4a90#.ip9vj6bub. There you will also find more photographs of Strohacker and Sollars’ Animal Land installation for the symposium.