“I’d rather be in the mountains thinking about God than in church thinking about the mountains” John Muir
Take a look at the two images, what do you see? There are obvious connections, even though the two pictures are quite different in style and were made at two different stages of my art career. Apart from the obvious flower subject matter, they are also connected because they are both pictures that I have chosen for a campaigning project I am currently working on called Postcards from the Edge.
Postcards from the Edge is an open invitation to all artists and creatives, including crafters, to send a postcard sized image via email to their own MP on every day (31st October – 12th November) of the COP26 Climate summit, which this time is hosted in the UK. Taking a leaf out of the Craftivist book, I decided that, as my physical health limits my capacity to protest on the streets, I would do something I am really good at – get creative.
Like many, I am deeply distressed by the climate crisis, but also like many of us, I often feel powerless to affect real change in the face of such a huge problem. A book I have been reading, Active Hope, talks about how we all have this experience – an overpowering sense of dread but also a feeling of disempowerment with regard to how to work for good climatic outcomes. The book aims to help us face the reality of climate change but also to be able to find positive ways to work towards hopeful change (hence the title). Craftivism offers a personal approach to affecting change, engaging with individuals like politicians as human beings who we can have a conversation with. Craftivist often ‘gift’ beautifully made items, for example one action involved sending hand embroidered handkerchiefs to highlight air quality issues.
So, for every day of COP 26 I am sending a postcard sized picture of nature to my MP via email. I am also going to send him some postal ones too. And the pictures here are just two of them. I want to gently remind him of what we are losing, what we will miss when its gone and to encourage him and his government to honour the Paris Concord and meet the Kyoto Protocol. On paper – or the internet – the current government are world leaders pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 100% of 1990 levels (net zero) by 2050. But in reality, we see new coalmines, offshore oil and gas mining and HS2. And the scientists are all saying that we are at tipping point, at the very edge of no going back.
When choosing the pictures I would send to my MP, I was struck by the poignancy of them. Unwittingly, and over many years, I have made art about the fragility of natural things I really value. The first image from 2000 shows a piece called Mend which was about relationships, and yet I used the metaphor of a flower being repaired when it is broken. The second image from my current show ‘Then I’ll Begin’ shows an artwork about how we deal with death, but it also uses nature as its metaphor – with dying flowers and the word ‘sacred’.
I have always felt a strong connection with nature as something sentient. As a child, I experienced the divine most closely when I was out in nature. This is something I am now revisiting as an adult. Recently I have been watching a TV series called Nature and Us – an exploration of our relationship with nature though the history of art. In it the presenter talks about how our view of ourselves as humans has changed over time – from being a part of the ecosystem, to being in dominance over it with the advent of monotheist religion and the outworking of this via the enlightenment. This is a challenge to me, as an adherent of the monotheist religion Christianity. However, the presenter adds a secateur to this, saying that that Christianity offers the concept of a suffering God, one who knows the pain of humanity – and by extrapolation, the pain of suffering for the whole of nature. And this is where I find myself: in this place, where I intuit that all of us are a part of this cosmos and need to respect and care for all living beings, and that also, we all know how it is to suffer and we can also offer healing and hope to those around us – and this includes the natural world that we are all part of. So, my campaign is a creative reminder to those in power who have the opportunity to have the most effect on the fragility of our world. And I invite you to take part.
Take another look at the pictures:
- What do you feel is fragile?
- Where do you find the divine?
- How can you act for hope?
Please consider being part of my campaign. Find out more on Facebook or Instagram, links below. Please share with your friends and networks. Thankyou
This meditation is commissioned by Leeds Methodist Mission