Recycling and reverence – artists express hopes for Earth’s future

Posted in Feature, Visual Art

Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
April 3, 2013

Richard Evans works with found objects. Here's his piece, "Heaven and Earth Exhausted."

Richard Evans works with found objects to break down the “fourth wall” of his theatrical visual art. Here’s his piece, “Heaven on Earth, Exhausted.” (Photos courtesy of Betty Freeman)

Ten Whidbey Island artists share dreams, doubts and desires for the environment in a show that celebrates Earth Day.

“Earth,” opens at the Bayview Corner Cash Store in Langley on Friday, April 5 and runs through May 5 as a part of the Earth and Ocean activities planned on South Whidbey. An opening artists’ reception is from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 7.

“Earth” features paintings, sculpture, mixed-media, video, fabric and digital art. Participating artists include Jacob Bloom, Chris Dennis, Joy Dennis, Richard Evans, David Iles, Dan Imburgia, Denise LaRue, Johanna Nitzke Marquis, Diane Reardon and J Graham Ross.

Artists were asked for representations of hopes, dreams and desires – or concerns, annoyances and fears – for the present or future of Mother Earth.

Evans haunts rummage sales and the recycling center to find inspiring castoffs for his 3-D installations. Step into his garage studio in Clinton and find an eclectic collection of found objects, toys, wires, scrap metal, piano keyboards and well, just plain junk.

When asked where he gets his collectibles, he quipped, “My wife Jo would say ‘where doesn’t he get it?’” She should know; they’ve been married for 60 years.

For the “Earth” art show, Evans created several three-dimensional pieces utilizing an assortment of found objects in surprising combinations.

“Heaven on Earth, Exhausted” is a cruciform piece that incorporates a gas ration card from the 1940s as well as a car exhaust pipe, a rear view mirror and a halo.

“I love the cruciform,” said Evans. “It’s a workable theme for me with so many possibilities for interpretation.”

Also in the works is an on-site installation for the “Earth” show. Entitled “Hubba Hubba,” this piece utilizes wires and a metal grid as a goofy reflection on the enigmatic Howard Hughes. It’s also an homage to 1930s film star Jean Harlow, “an organism invented by Howard Hughes,” said Evans.

Evans, who had a long career as a TV, stage and film actor and director before retiring to Whidbey Island 25 years ago, relates his artwork to directing a stage play.

“I like breaking down the fourth wall, as they say in the theater; to include the audience,” he said. “For example I use mirrors as a way of involving the audience, to draw them into the art.” His mixed-media, two-sided piece called “POLEVED” (DEVELOP spelled backwards), uses convex mirrors to challenge viewers’ perceptions.

“What do we really see in a mirror?” Evans asked.

Evans credits 1960s installation artists Jean Tinguely, Ed Kienholz and Ed Ruscha for inspiring his kinetic, intricate combinations. The materials he combines may not always seem to go together, but he says that’s part of the fun for him as an artist.

Johanna Nitzke Marquis incorporated found and re-purposed objects into an her oil-on-linen painting, “Memory Remembered.”

Johanna Nitzke Marquis incorporated found and re-purposed objects into an her oil-on-linen painting, “Memory Remembered.”

“I see my sculptures as subversive, but playful,” he said. “I try to avoid things that slap you in the face with meaning, so I don’t make the meaning too obvious. Then it can mean whatever the viewer wants it to mean.”

For Earth Day, Evans expects other artists in the show to reflect abuse of the Earth, as well as hopeful, positive and forward-looking aspects.

Oil painter Joy Dennis said her paintings “reflect her interest in beginnings, especially the conception of the Earth.”

One of her oil paintings is titled “Fertilization” and depicts a raven in front of the sun, dropping an acorn to earth — a chance encounter that can ultimately become an oak tree.

Another of Dennis’ paintings in bright sun colors celebrates the queen bee, and is titled: “Without Her All is Lost.”

Joy’s husband Chris Dennis’ multi-media contribution uses time-lapse slides of earthworms that morph to spell out the words: “Soil Yourselves.” This humorous homage to vermi-composting is aptly located near the restrooms on the ground floor of the Cash Store.

“The photo project with worms was inspired by a science-fair project with our 12-year-old son, testing animal waste to see which contained the highest levels of nutrients,” said Joy of the “Soil Yourselves” piece. “Chris dug up 300 earthworms and took 750 photo frames.”

“Chris is inspired by humor, and I’m intrigued by the overall design of the Earth, as well as the exploration of inner landscapes,” said Joy.

Reardon combines fibers with encaustic in her mixed-media paintings on cloth, which show her fascination with water and the creatures it supports, especially whales.

“I’m passionate about the state of our oceans, but I don’t want to preach, so I chose two rather abstract pieces to put into the ‘Earth’ show,” said Reardon.

“‘Coastline Watch’ depicts an eagles-eye view of the sea meeting the land,” she said.

Diane Reardon is fascinated by how the water meets the land in her mixed-media fiber piece entitled “Coastline Watch.”

Diane Reardon is fascinated by how the water meets the land in her mixed-media fiber piece entitled “Coastline Watch.”

“Confluence” shows another view of fresh water meeting the sea.

“Confluence is the same as ‘Coastline’ in that they both show two masses meeting, but it’s even more abstract,” said Reardon. “Where the silt meets the sea all kinds of things are happening.”

Reardon will donate part of any sales to the Orca Network, which she credits with sparking her interest in depicting the sea and its creatures in her art. She is currently showing some of her “Whale Series I” pieces at Bloom’s Winery at Bayview Cash Store, a show that will continue through April.

While visiting the Sunday opening reception of “Earth,” don’t miss the 7th annual community peace picture that will be taken at 1 p.m. outside the Cash Store. Everyone is invited to participate in this Earth Day at Bayview Corner tradition.

The exhibition coincides with Whidbey Earth and Ocean Month 2013 and was organized by Marian Myszkowski on behalf of Goosefoot.

In addition to the month-long art show at the Cash Store, find out about other Earth and Ocean-related activities through April, including tours and lectures, at

For more info about  “Ocean” activities this month sponsored by the Orca Network, Langley Chamber of Commerce and Homeplace Special Care, click here.

(Pictured at top, Chris Dennis took 750 photographs of earthworms to create a moving pictures piece entitled “Soil Yourselves.”)

Betty Freeman is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who lives in Clinton with her husband Dan, a sculptor.

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