Print juried into Pennsylvania photography exhibit

Print juried into Pennsylvania Center for Photography exhibit
Throw Away Ocean, Digital Collage Art print, 2017

I am honored to have been juried into a photography exhibit at the Pennsylvania Center for Photography, in Doylestown PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. The exhibit, November 1 – 17, 2019, was entitled Transformations. Throwaway Ocean (above) was included in the section called “Unlimited Exhibition.” This means that an artist was allowed to employ any type of digital process imaginable.

Freaky Halloween snowstorm!

Print wins entry into photography exhibit
Betty Butler, Polar Vortex, Digital Collage, 2019

Halloween really was scary in Chicago this year, but not because the children were disguised as monsters and goblins. It was frightening to observe so few of the trick-or-treaters out and about due to an early snowstorm. The leaves still clung to their branches, even as white powder clung to them. By Veterans Day November 11, it snowed again, and Arctic cold surged as far south as Florida. Yes, our climate is changing, but on the other hand, not randomly.

A study in Nature Communications, March 13, 2018, reported that warm arctic episodes are linked with increased frequency of extreme winter weather in the United States. This happened last winter when, in late January 2019, a severe cold wave hit the Midwestern United States.

Polar Vortex (above) is part of my series that illustrates stronger climate events, such as floods, drought, and, blizzards. These, can bring havoc upon our way of life.

The art of buying Greenland

Greenland digital art
© Betty Butler, Global Effect, Digital Collage, 2017

Greenland has been in the news quite a bit lately. After Europe’s heatwave of 2019 spread north, Greenland’s ice sheet experienced a significant melting event. The result was that much of the island’s ice has turned to slush. As rivers of water pour into the ocean, a NASA Study predicts more long-term sea-level rise from Greenland ice. Then curiously, our President decided it would be an excellent time to broker a deal with Denmark to buy its autonomous territory of Greenland. Of course, the Danish Prime Minister declared the idea absurd.

Could anything be more ludicrous? Could our planet be in any more danger?

Global Effect (above) is abstract, but in some ways, it reminds me of the shapes on a world atlas. This digital collage is composed of manipulated photos from the ocean, beach, and one of my paintings. These images of earth and its patterns bring together my appreciation of nature and on-going concern with climate change as a global problem.   

New work accepted into Palm Springs gallery

Greenland ice melting
© Betty Butler, Searching for Food, Digital Collage, 2019

 I was honored to be accepted as an Exhibition Finalist in a show entitled Lines, Shapes & Objects. The gallery, named Fusion Art, is located in Palm Springs, California.  It is a brick and mortar, as well as an online gallery. The accepted work, Searching For Food (above) is part of my current series on nature and climate change. The exhibit was online through August 10, 2019.

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.

New images illustrate populations forced to move

As the warming climate changes our planet in unexpected ways, there will be populations forced to move. Some migrations will be due to the ocean rising and reclaiming everything from beachfront property to island nations. Some people will be forced to move north as the heat simply makes living unbearable. Other populations will be on the move, as their food production decreases, due to the desertification of once fertile land.

Desertification is the process by which dry, but usable areas, are transformed into a desert. Desertification is not a new phenomenon, having in the past been precipitated by overgrazing and land exhaustion due to poor farming techniques. But one of the major causes of desertification in the 20th-21st centuries is probably climate change. Global warming foments the droughts and forest fires which degrade fertile land. When productive farming areas dry up, people move from rural to urban centers. These migrations into the cities often cause large numbers of unemployed people.

For these digital collages, I used photography from my travels and closer to home, to depict various global environments. In addition, I was recently able to photograph groups of people that I used as silhouettes and patterns, to illustrate the experience of population upheaval.

populations forced to move
© Betty Butler, Searching for Food, 2019

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!