Print series honors the first moon landing

moon landing
© Betty Butler, Magenta Moons, Art Print, 2012

That warm, muggy evening of July 20, 1969, seems like yesterday. It was 50 years ago. I had just watched the live televised moon landing and then went out to my front yard to be with some youthful friends. We gazed at the full moon, with its bright surface and craters. It seemed so distant, and yet a little closer than before, with the utterance of the words by astronaut Neil Armstrong, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

In honor of the first moon landing anniversary, I am re-posting my collages from the series, Full Moon Musing. I started working with a simple photograph of a springtime tree and billowing clouds behind it. With a few experiments in PhotoShop, I realized that the clouds also took on the shape of craters within the appearance of full moons. Thus, the series of art prints began. Eventually, I added elements of water, shells, and flowers to the circular shapes. I was stunned at the visual connections between earth, water, and sky.

Daffodils and warming oceans

Temperature Rising, Betty Butler, Digital collage, 2017

Yes, we in the Midwest U.S. are looking forward to the lifting of this long cold winter. In anticipation of spring, I am posting a photograph of beautiful daffodils that will be blooming soon.

In spite of a cold start to March 2019, the Journal of Advances in Atmospheric Sciences reports that 2018 was the hottest year on record for the oceans. They state that this warming is due to human activity. Of course, warming oceans mean shrinking polar ice, rising sea levels, and coastal flooding.

photograph of daffodils

Daffodils will be blooming soon.

Temperature Rising (top) is a visual commentary on global warming. I wrote in a blog for Artists and Climate Change that for me, “this image became an amalgamation of earth and sun, with the sun clearly encroaching on the available space. I started with a photograph of waves in the cobalt-blue Gulf of Mexico. With a photo-manipulation program, I inverted the ocean, and it stunningly became a bright yellow-gold. Inversion is the equivalent to reversing a color photograph to that of a negative. I found it interesting that the yellow-orange area bears some resemblance to sunspots and the bright areas (faculae) that surround them.

As an artist, I am fascinated with the patterns repeated in nature, from the spots on seashells, to similar spots on leopards. The photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of newly forming stars in the ‘Pillars of Creation’ could be mistaken for exaggerated cumulonimbus clouds that accompany earthly thunderstorms. If these visual patterns are connected, aren’t all creatures and systems similarly bonded and worthy of concern?”

Getting back to our weariness of winter, when the daffodils do bloom, I hope you enjoy them. I know I will.

Warm colors for cold days

As the temperatures plunge and the snow falls, allow these new beach collages to take you to a pleasant warm place. In your imagination, this is a place where you can walk along a beautiful, fanciful beach, where starfish, sea urchins, seashells and bright colors populate the path. Imagine yourself dipping your toes in the warm, inviting sand while feeling a refreshing ocean breeze.

I hope these images give you a slight reprieve from winter’s reign.

The starfish are back

I have used starfish (sea stars) in my digital collages on and off for almost five years to create these imagined beaches. Coincidentally, it was five years ago that the stars began to suffer a massive die-off on California’s coast. Scientists now believe that the cause was multi-factored, including warmer waters and a virus.

But the starfish are coming back!  Scientists have recently observed young sea stars flourishing on the coasts. A new study compared DNA of sea stars from before and after the outbreak and found the juveniles who are succeeding in coastal ecosystems today share a gene that resists the virus, suggesting that the virus catalyzed a process of natural selection. Score one for the environment.

Flowers shine a light on energy concerns

This new image visually contrasts flowers and the aging technology of the electrical grid. These flowers, although thin and wiry like the transmission lines, are animated and lively. By comparison, the towers appear to be an ancient construct. As the window for preventing dramatic climate warming closes, the energy transmitted through the grid continues to be produced by a 63% blend of fossil fuel and nuclear, rather than environmentally friendly renewable sources.

The electric grid in its current state brings to mind the over year-long recovery of Puerto Rico from the destruction of category five Hurricane Maria. The island grid was almost totally destroyed. The power has not yet been restored to all of its citizens. Puerto Rico, vulnerable to storms, is also rich in renewable sources such as wind, solar, water, and biomass. Still, with our current laws, FEMA is required to restore power to match the destroyed system exactly as it was.  And so, the government is currently rebuilding the grid without updates. Tall towers are being built in inaccessible areas such as mountain tops in favor of more manageable local grids fueled by solar or wind. In addition, the importing of expensive fossil fuel needs to continue.

In spite of these FEMA requirements, philanthropists and private companies have come in to help. They donated roof-top solar systems, which form small renewable grids. This technology has helped some neighborhoods regain their electricity. While Puerto Rico’s energy problems and recovery are an extreme example of lack of economic and environmental foresight, I hope that we as a nation can learn from these missteps.

Prints juried into NYC exhibit

prints accepted into NYC exhibitI am honored to have two of my digital collage prints accepted into Unnatural Selection, an exhibition highlighting species endangered by human activity. This happens as a result of over-harvesting, pollution, habitat destruction, exotic animal trade and trophy hunting, among other influences.

Unnatural Selection

Long Island City Artists LIC/A The Plaxall Gallery, 5-25 46th Ave., Queens, NY 11101, Opening Reception: Saturday, September 8th, 7-10 PM, On View: August 30th – September 30th, 2018

Horsepower (below) is one of the accepted prints, and I described it in my last post. “Like all marine life, seahorses are experiencing changes brought about by our warming planet. Much of the atmosphere’s heat and carbon dioxide are absorbed by the ocean like a sponge. Therefore, the climbing temperature is eroding their shallow tropical water habitat of seagrass and coral. In addition, excess carbon contributes to ocean acidification, which causes their bony structure to lose strength. Other hazards include: getting caught in fishing gear and being harvested for traditional medicine and souvenirs.

sea horse prints
©Betty Butler, Horsepower, 2018

Do seahorses have horsepower?

Seahorses are magical fish that seemingly float up and down, back and forth, and gracefully twist and tumble through their watery world. These dancers of the sea achieve their swimming power from one constantly moving dorsal fin.

On a visit to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois, I observed these social creatures swimming in pairs. They gathered in groups, using their curly tails to cling to sea grass. Did you know that the male of the species carries the babies during gestation?

These beautiful creatures served as an inspiration for my latest digital collages. In the first print, I silhouetted the seahorses and then filled them with cars, packed in traffic. The name of the work, Horsepower, is a play on words between our vehicles, their carbon emissions, and the affected seahorses.

Like all marine life, seahorses are experiencing changes brought about by our warming planet. Much of the atmosphere’s heat and carbon dioxide are absorbed by the ocean like a sponge. Therefore, the climbing temperature is eroding their shallow tropical water habitat of sea grass and coral. In addition, excess carbon contributes to ocean acidification, which causes their bony structure to lose strength. Other hazards include: getting caught in fishing gear and being harvested for traditional medicine and souvenirs.

Celebrating marine life

sea horses
Betty Butler, Colorful Seahorses, 2018

In order to celebrate seahorses and all aquatic life, I was moved to create a companion art print that was fun and colorful. It uses many of the same graphic elements as the first digital collage. Rather than cars, I filled the silhouetted animals with bright colors. In a bit of good news, Starbucks and McDonald’s are intending to switch from single-use plastic to paper straws by 2020. This is because of consumer demand. It feels good to know that the public can make a difference to reduce the tide of our environmental problems.

Exploring the nature of red white and blue

As Memorial Day and the Fourth of July approaches, I would like to explore the color palette of red white and blue. In addition to being a patriotic theme, I have used this palette in the two prints that I am featuring today. Often times, blue refers to themes of water, as it does in Ocean Disruption (above). Wintry Tulips (below) utilizes the color to express season and mood. In the first piece, the red is mostly used for contrast, and in the second, it portrays the natural, spring-like color of the flowers. White appears as either waves or snow, in the two prints.

Ocean Disruption, the winner of two awards in 2017, contains recognizable photographs of ocean waves, and although one can clearly see the ocean black-drop, there is pattern and texture, as well as pure chaos.  The title refers to human influences that have disrupted our oceans with garbage: namely the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is one of several patches, swirling on each ocean, on huge rotating oceanic currents. The garbage, mostly plastic, does not disintegrate, and only breaks down no smaller than microplastics. These are then eaten by fish, birds and marine mammals, either killing them or allowing the plastic chemicals to travel higher into the food chain. A recent study, reported in National Geographic Magazine, has shown that much of the plastic consists of abandoned fishing nets, ropes and baskets. This fishing gear injures or kills innumerable marine animals every year.

On the brighter side, several organizations are working to monitor and pull the trash from the ocean.

Surreal blue tulips

red white and blue
© Betty Butler, Wintry Tulips, 2013

Wintry Tulips (above) is part of a series entitled Seasons.  This series invites the viewer to take a nontraditional voyage through the four seasons. In it, I hope to share my joy and contemplation of seasonal changes, and their analogies to the human experience. This print seems to be in the process of morphing from winter to spring. I have turned some of the tulips in a horizontal direction and transformed them into a bracing royal blue. They are shooting across a bleak scene of white snow and barren trees. Only fragments of the natural red tulips remain, suggesting that spring once existed, or will exist again.

In reality, spring’s warmth and blooming flowers have actually arrived. Enjoy the season! 

The universe in a flower

The sight of cone flowers is common in the Midwest, but I never really saw their essence until an October afternoon in Door County Wisconsin. I was taken by their autumnal presence – void of vibrant color, yet tall, with prominent, round, spiky heads. Photographs of these skeletal flowers would become subject matter for some of my digital collages.

 

Digital collage of photography
© Betty Butler Purple Oak, 2012

For my latest collage, Ocean Flower, (top) I have silhouetted the flowers and filled them with the colorful blues and greens of sky, water and botanical life. Finally, I added photographic hints of ocean waves. The ocean within a flower brings to mind the water cycle: a process through which water and water vapor rise from plants and bodies of water, into the atmosphere, and back to earth again in the form of rain or snow.

For me, these flowers, depicted in this way, embody a world or a universe. Besides, these frail flowers, seen at the end of their growing season, contain the seeds – the very life source – for their next generation. We humans are also the guardians of future generations. As the oceans warm and expand, glaciers melt and sea levels rise to engulf coastal regions, we must all concern ourselves with our future world, our universe.

                                                                                                                                         

Dipping into the beautiful, fragile ocean

Sea shell beach art
© Betty Butler, Nautilus Beach, digital collage

I hope you are enjoying the lake or ocean beach this summer. Because it’s summer, I am posting the peaceful and softly colored image Nautilus Beach, pictured above. Even if you are not at the beach, I hope this image will take you there on a visual journey.

Coral reefs in peril

ocean abstrasts
© Betty Butler, Coral Grief, Digital collage

While the next image is visually pleasant with blue ocean imagery and fan coral, it also addresses the serious problem of coral bleaching. As I have turned my artistic focus from shells and shores to the ocean itself, I have found artist organizations concerned with climate change. I was fortunate enough to be able to write an article for the blog Artists and Climate Change. In the post I said the following about Coral Grief, pictured above:

Coral reefs thrive within a narrow temperature range. Their fate is being challenged as the oceans absorb much of the heat created by global warming. When coral is stressed, it discharges its algae and becomes white or bleached, and vulnerable to death. A major bleaching event is considered one of the most visual indicators of climate change. This image was produced by layering ocean and coral photography. With photo-manipulation, I was able to portray the coral as bleached. As I searched for an appropriate title, the term coral reef yielded to the reality of ‘coral grief.’

In spite of this reality, I intend to enjoy and celebrate our rivers, lakes and oceans. I will fight for their health as well.   

 

 

Playful ocean art talks about climate change

ocean digital collage
Acidic Ocean, Betty Butler, Digital collage, 2017

From an emotional perspective, water can symbolize longing, as in being separated by large spans of ocean. It is a life force, stormy and threatening, as well as calming  and beautiful. From a scientific point of view, the oceans cover 70% of earth’s surface and contain roughly 97% of its water. The oceans supply much of the earth’s food and most of its oxygen through a population of tiny plants.

From an artistic point of view, I am moved to create work about water. In the image above, I layered ocean photography with playfully colored, digitally painted circles, which could suggest bubbles of gas dissolving in water. 

Saving our oceans

Sea water is slightly base as opposed to acidic. As man-made CO2 increases in the atmosphere, it is eventually deposited and dissolved in the ocean. It then skews the water toward a more acidic reading in a process called ocean acidification. As a result, shell-forming animals including corals, oysters, shrimp, lobster, many planktonic organisms, and even some fish species could be gravely affected.

While climate change is an urgent issue, time has not run out for action. Here is a list of ten things each of us can do to save the oceans. I plan to take as many of these actions as I can.