Life or Death

©Jan Harrison, BALANCE, 2015, 22.5 x 30.25 inches, pastel, ink, charcoal, and color pencil on rag paper . (Series: “Animals in the Anthropocene.” )

“We are looking ahead, as is one of the first mandates given us as chiefs, to make sure and to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come. … What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?” -Oren Lyons, Chief of the Onondaga Nation

Facts matter. Although the world witnessed five extinctions before the rise of homo sapiens, the sixth great extinction known as the Holocene extinction is happening all around us every day and is largely attributed to unfettered human destruction. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity estimates that the planet witnesses the loss of up to 150 species every 24 hours. The current political climate in the United States, in particular, does more than turn a blind eye to those who value capital over measures ensuring the welfare and survival of the planet that sustains all forms of life as we know it. In fact, every day in Washington policies are being put forth that provide increased safety nets and incentives to polluters and irresponsible corporate entities while stripping the same from the very people our government is elected to protect. An elaborate web of deception has woven itself around a base that routinely votes against its own interests in both a very immediate sense as well as in a broader and more global way. The abstractness of concepts like mass extinction and climate change makes them easy targets for those who wish to sweep these uncomfortable truths under the rug in favor of immediate financial gratification. A single question beckons all who choose to hear, will humans survive the Holocene Extinction?

Jan Harrison is creating a series of ink and pastel painting on rag paper involving endangered animal species. Her work explores the animal nature and the psyche and often represents animals going from one state of being to another, in other words, shape-shifting between species sometimes becoming hybrids. Her current series was exhibited at Cross Contemporary Art in Saugerties, New York as part of a group show and is slated for more exhibitions. In 1979, Harrison dreamed she came upon a bird while walking along the bank of a river. She lifted the bird and discovered a medallion around its neck that matched one she realized she wore around her own neck. In the dream, the medallions allowed Harrison to communicate with the bird. Days after the dream, she began speaking and singing in “animal tongues” which allows her animal nature to be represented through language. Harrison has experienced animal responses when speaking in this way around both domestic and wild animals. She compares her animal language to the communication between a work of art and a viewer. Harrison uses the term language to describe her vocalizations though she is aware that it is something separate from language as commonly defined. She has found that using human words while communicating with animals can create barriers to connection. Harrison has performed her animal tongues, often in conjunction with her visual art and sometimes including movement. In addition to painting, Harrison is also a sculptor though currently, her focus is primarily on two-dimensional art. One of her more recent series, Animals in the Anthropocene, represents whole bodied animals interacting, changing, and moving. Harrison’s work, in a broad sense, speaks to the fact that we are all together on one planet that needs protecting if we are to survive. To hear Jan Harrison speak in animal tongues, listen to the complete interview.

Shane McCrae is a poet and author. He is currently working on his next manuscript titled The Gilded Auction Block which is comprised of poems about Donald Trump. After working on this book, McCrae found that he was weary of the subject so subsequent work, as far as he can tell, has nothing to do with the controversial Commander in Chief. “There’s a way of thinking of Trump as a sort of muse-like figure although I’m not sure that I want to,” McCrae says. With Trump in the White House, time seems to have shifted, he says. Although a year has passed, McCrae still feels caught up in the first moments of disbelief that followed the 2016 election. For The Gilded Auction Block, McCrae thought about Trump as a representation of the United States. His poem Everything I Learned About Blackness I Learned from Donald Trump is a reaction to the installation of such a president in a nation that, in part, supports him and an examination of what that means within the wider world. Other poems from The Gilded Auction Block take on other figures within the Trump sphere such as Jeff Sessions. McCrae points to a feeling of one-dimensionality, a comic book presidency he calls it, that creates a sort of surreality surrounding the entire administration. To hear more about this and other works, and to hear the author read selections from his books of poetry, listen to the full interview.

A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:

We cannot live for only today, ignoring our responsibilities in favor of a moment of convenience or gratification. Generations yet to come depend on our treatment of the planet that will sustain their very life to consider how that life will look seven generations on and beyond.

Interviews are available on iTunes as podcasts, and for Android please click here. All weekly essay pieces in a shareable format are here. The full archive of interviews here.

Books to Read

What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Kathleen Trestka has been reading about the inimitable Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. Meanwhile Kory Russell has been making her way through the Memoirs of Casanova by the man himself, Giacomo Chevalier De Seingalt Casanova.

Opportunities / Open Calls

Bogliasco Foundation invites artists across multiple disciplines to apply for their spring 2019 fellowship along the bucolic coast of Genoa, Italy. Fellowship periods are one month long and include private quarters with bath and full board. Partners/spouses are invited to stay for a fee of $25/day. For more information, visit the foundation website. Deadline for spring 19 applications is April 15, 2018.

Deadlines

Weekly Edited Grant and Residency Deadlines – review the list here.

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