Unbelievable 2020

(c) Betty Butler Escape Plan, Digital Collage, 2020

Unbelievable 2020. This year we witnessed more than 200,000 deaths in the United States resulting from COVID-19. We also experienced police violence, protest and civil unrest, the worst California wildfires on record, and a president attempting to win an election with lies, deceit, and probable chaos yet to come.

Of course, my art has been influenced by some of these events. Escape Plan (above) started as a high contrast photograph of a street scene in NYC (from my time at The Cooper Union School of Art, 1973.)  The street, probably an alleyway, shows buildings with fire-escapes and barbed wire smack down the middle. Then I added silhouettes of people, the virus, and digital painting. The fire escape in the image alludes to a hopeful escape plan from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Of course, at this moment, there is none in sight, except for the practical measures of social distancing and mask-wearing. The president lies (or down-plays) the truth of COVID-19, so his base is reluctant to put these measures into place. Remarkably, mask-wearing has become politicized. In this image, there are only people traumatized by the barbed wire and looming disease.

California Fires

(c) Betty Butler, Fire Escape, Digital Collage, 2020

I created Escaping the Fire as a reaction to the devastating Australian fires of 2019-2020. Yet, the devastation continues in the western United States. Roughly 100 million acres of land have burned, making 2020 the largest wildfire season in California’s history. The intensity of the fires has been increased by drying and heating from human-induced climate change.[5][6]

With all of these dire events upon us, I still believe we will come out more resilient and creative on the other side.

Two crises collide, “I Can’t Breathe”

I can't breathe
(c) Betty Butler, I Can’t Breath, Digital Painting, 2020

Ideas for I Can’t Breathe (above) came to me as I heard George Floyd’s last words, which echoed the words of seriously ill and dying COVID-19 patients. Visually, I envisioned unwarranted police violence, multiplying virus particles, facial masks, and a general sense of chaos.

In Minneapolis, MN, Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, four police officers snuffed out a black man’s life. Two days later, on May 27, the US reached a death toll of 100,000 persons from COVID-19. Concurrently, young people, black, white, and brown (mostly wearing masks), took to the streets protesting for justice. Finally, protests continued, until one, then the other three officers were charged with some degree of murder. The President could not help himself but make things worse. He ordered the United States military to tear gas a peaceful crowd of protesters in DC, so he could walk to a nearby church and hold up a bible (upside down) for a photo-op. The nation-wide and world-wide protests continue.

COVID-19 continues to spread

US states have reopened their businesses at different rates. Meanwhile, since Memorial Day, there has been a spike in virus spread and hospitalizations in some states. Let’s hope for a more unified approach to social distancing, mask-wearing, and testing in the future.

Exhibition in the Canary Islands, Spain

I was honored to have three of my prints juried into an international exhibition entitled Lost at Lacuna Festivals, Canary Islands, Spain. The theme could include lost culture, language, and traditions. My three chosen works referenced the Australian fires of 2019-2020, and the loss of life and environment. Then the curators informed the artists that the exhibition Lost was almost lost because of the pandemic. Soon, they found a solution and asked the artists for permission to show their work in an online festival.

The Lacuna Festivals will take place online from June 26 – July 31, 2020.

I can't breathe
(c) Betty Butler, Australian Fires, Digital Collage, 2020
(c) Betty Butler, Kangaroo Escape, Digital Collage, 2020
I can't breathe
(c) Betty Butler, Escaping the Fire, Digital Collage, 2020

COVID-19 and the Australian fires

Australian Fires
(c) Betty Butler, Kangaroo Escape, Digital Collage, 2020
Australian Fires
(c) Betty Butler, Escaping the Fire, Digital Collage, 2020

It is hard to believe that it was only in January of this year that the world finally took notice of the 2019-2020 Australian fires. They had been devastating to the country’s environment and tragically caused human deaths and homelessness. However, the situation also pulled at our heartstrings. The world has witnessed the burning and suffering of Australia’s beautiful and rare animals. Scientists estimate one billion have died. In January, I was moved to create these digital collages relating to the inferno’s effect on human and animal life.

A hotter planet

Yet, by March, the world had turned its attention to a crisis that no one could ignore, the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the two catastrophes could be related by one glaring issue: global warming. Recent studies have confirmed that Australia’s wildfires have now been linked to climate change. Drought and Climate-influenced temperatures raised the wildfire risk by 30 percent.

Concerning the Corona Virus, of course, modern travel can quickly spread a pandemic from continent to continent. Moreover, pandemics like this are expected to rise as the climate changes. Illnesses carried by mosquitoes, ticks, and other animals, will likely increase on a hotter planet. In addition, when humans cramp and stress animals in tight cages, a viral crossover from species to species can occur. This is especially true in wet markets, which create a toxic mix of animal fluids and human beings. These viruses may have been coexisting within the animal species for many years, but people carry no immunity to them.

It seems like the global community is learning painfully, not to wait too long to address a problem like a pandemic. We are seeing how quickly illness and death can mount up in a short amount of time. I hope our world community can learn from this and take corrective steps for our climate NOW. A tipping point for the earth could come sooner than we think.

Berlin exhibition March 2020

Berlin art exhit March 2020
(c) Betty Butler, Through the Desert, Digital Collage, 2019

I am honored that my print, Through the Desert (above), is included in the exhibition, i am. an immigrant., slated for March 2020 at The Institut fur Alles Mogliche, (The Institute for Everything), Berlin, Germany. Sixteen artists from Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Canada, Berlin, Amsterdam, Israel, and Romania will explore the demographic changes that affect global and local politics, economies, and day to day life. History forewarns what can happen when hate, fear, and a sense of threat grows between people coming from different cultures, who now share space. This group exhibition is a place to explore these clashes of culture. Although, Through the Desert, is from my climate change series, droughts, floods, and fires are clearly contributing to the issue human migration.

For the Love of Art II, Dallas, Texas

Art of the Seasons

Gladioli Drawing I, 2019 (left), has been selected for the online exhibition, FOR THE LOVE OF ART II, Envision Arts, Dallas, Texas, on display through February 29, 2020. In addition to Americans, artists from Norway, Taiwan, Poland, United Kingdom, Portugal, Japan, and Greece are included. The jurors were seeking images regarding love and relationships, as well as the color red.

January gladioli surprise

Gladioli
(c) Betty Butler, Winter Gladioli, Digital Collage Print, 2019

I started Winter Gladioli (above) with photographs taken last August 2019. Then, I brought these flowers straight into January of 2020 by overlaying them with bare trees and muting parts of their bright red-pink color to white and gray.   Immediately, it appeared like the gladioli were part of a snowy scene.  Similarly, our climate has been unrecognizable in many ways across the globe. From massive fires in Australia to continuing ice melts in the Arctic, 2019 alone has seen unprecedented climate changes. These are the kinds of surprises, I for one, do not like to see.

Yet, I do enjoy using gladioli as subject matter purely for its beauty. I appreciate the gladiolus for its bright colors and succession of organic shapes. Here are some interesting facts about them. For instance, because of their long, pointed shape, they are named after the Latin word “gladius,” meaning sword. In Rome, gladioli were associated with gladiators. Gladioli are related to the iris family and originated in South Africa, finally coming to America in the late 18th century. 

Gladioli

I appreciate the gladiolus for its bright colors and succession of organic shapes.

Berlin exhibition in March 2020

I am honored to be included in an exhibition this March in Berlin, Germany, entitled, i am. an immigrant. The exhibit was curated by Dorit Jordan Dotan, artist in resident, Institut fur Alles Mogliche (Institute for Everything.) The exhibit explores demographic changes that affect global and local politics, economies, and day to day life. History forewarns what can happen when hate and fear grows among people coming from different cultures, who now share the same space. This group exhibition is a place to explore these clashes of culture. More info will be forthcoming.

Gladioli
© Betty Butler,Through the Desert, Digital Collage Print, 2019

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.

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.

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.