For Earth Day 2020, Erie Arts & Culture is celebrating several "eco-friendly" Erie-based artists. These artists use either green materials and processes to create their work, or they produce work that is a direct commentary on environmental issues. Please enjoy their unique and inspirational work below. A special thanks to Alexa Potter who helped to gather components of this blog post.
As a frustrated homeowner in Baltimore, Alexa D. Potter obsessively collected and cataloged the trash that landed in her holly bushes through a blog called Crap in My Yard. A move to Lake Erie focused her attention on the endless array of detritus that each wave brings to the shore outside her back door. You can follow her work on her instagram at @one_black_whisker. Alexa is one of Erie Arts & Culture's current Emerging Artist Fellows.
“None of us do what we do as an act of environmental activism. I know of only a few artists who do, and it tends to result in their work not being very good—the aestheticization of good intentions is the best description I’ve heard of it. Those that interact with our work may arrive at that conclusion, but that is the result of their own psyche: a collective unconscious brought to the fore. An awareness of environmental disaster and collapse is within most sentient humans, but it is still something that they choose to put off into the future. It becomes, inevitably, someone else’s problem. With my work in particular, coming face to face with a box of crap that isn’t from an unknown river in a far away place is jolting. The comment is usually “this is all from the lake? From the Peninsula? I can’t believe it!” I never intended my work to be a catalyst for environmental awareness, but that is very much a part of the discussion that comes out of interacting with it. Most viewers follow up with “what can I do to change it?” My response isn’t about recycling or using your own mug at Starbucks—you cannot enact radical change without making radical changes. If we were serious about the environment, individuals would stop driving their cars. They would stop buying electronics. They would stop buying altogether. Unfortunately those aren’t choices the majority can make. Next stop: nihilism.”
Brian Pardini is a sculptor who searches Lake Erie's shoreline for unique pieces of driftwood which become, with varying degrees of manipulation, a myriad of real and imagined life forms. Brian began making art in the mid-nineties after 25 years of renovating and building rural and urban homes using primarily recycled materials.
Francis T. Schanz
Francis T. Schanz is a pioneering assemblage artist, combining his own considerable collection of objects with new materials to create captivating, beautifully well-made works that are variously amusing, challenging, and astute. He is engaged by pattern, color, and form, with a tinge of nostalgia for the objects within his sculptures.
Evan Everhart creates artwork using discarded and scrap steel, stone, and wood. With these materials, he makes a wide range of objects, from jewelry to indoor/outdoor art. Evan's outdoor sculptures take on a rust finish that is achieved naturally through oxidization, avoiding the use of noxious paints.
Grounded Print Shop
Grounded is a sustainably-minded print and paper making shop. They employ the reduce, reuse, and recycle philosophy in big ways. Almost all of the equipment in the shop is second, third, or even fourth hand. Most of the paper Grounded produce is made from 100% locally sourced recycled materials. Paper is made by recycling cardboard, office paper, manila folders, and fabric. They also prioritize the use of non-toxic inks and solvents. For instance, vegetable oil is used in place of mineral spirits to clean up any inks that are spilled. Papermaking is a water-intensive process and the shop captures and reuses water when possible.
Lake Life by Sherry
Sherry DellleCurti, the owner of Lake Life Gift Shop, is a lover of the Erie Region and its assets. The artwork sold in her store is primarily made from recycled, upcycled, or found objects. Sherry repurposes washed-up metal to create sculptural pieces and often uses driftwood and beach glass in her art, as well.
Many around the region have taken classes at Lake Life. During the current pandemic, Sherry has a website that hosts an online store and virtual classes. Those who participate in virtual classes receive a kit of materials and Sherry provides video instructions to guide participants through the creative process of creating art from repurposed items.
Jamie Borowicz is a teacher of art and art history at Mercyhurst Preparatory School and an art faculty member at Mercyhurst University. His art making practice is informed by his interest in nature and anthropology. Jamie works in a variety of mediums. His free-standing sculptural works are made of rocks and other materials found along Lake Erie's shorelines.