Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Art of Jenny Kendler

"Human exceptionalism has got to go."

Now there's a statement from an artist I can get behind.

I first encountered the work of the lovely and talented Jenny Kendler in a Sunday edition of The Chicago Tribune.  The artist has three public installations set for this fall in Chicago.

I was attracted to the work in that it is not simply art but it is art as an expression of empathy for non-human organisms.  As that opening quote insinuates, Kendler is an activist in the eco community, using art to draw attention to such critical matters as climate change and the collapse of both ecosystems and the species that inhabit them.  As Kendler explains in the article:

"Both artists and scientists are truth seekers and creative problem solvers.  Artists look for meaning while scientists try to find truth.  We need both for a better world."

Yet more thinking this blogger can get behind.

While my writing here demonstrates an obvious value of science, technology, and their allied subjects short-handed as STEM for those of us in higher ed, I'm hopeful that the posts are all balanced out with pieces on the arts.  I am by nature a creative person.  I enjoy writing fiction and...I don't know if I'd call it art...creating works and watching how they fair in the zeitgeist.  That's why I'm a proponent of STEAM over STEM (with that additional "A" standing for "art" in a cheeky and pretentious move I picked up from elsewhere...can't remember exactly where.)

I get the feeling that Jenny Kendler parks her car in a similar garage.  Her art is strategically crafted to not only evoke an aesthetic charm, but to force the viewer to consider what we are doing to our world.  Case in point is her installation "Natural Camouflage Wallpaper" posted above.  It's a spiky field of blue, indigo, and purple with explosions of red that will eventually be placed against the urban backdrop of Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood.  You can't not see it.  Paintings of flowers might be criticized as one of the more basic or twee subjects for an artist, but here they are a bright reminder that this area of the world was once covered by prairie wildflowers.  Before anyone gets any ideas, I don't derive the notion that Jenny Kendler advocates for us to shuck our modern conveniences and return to a pastoral lifestyle per se.

What is being said, I believe, is that we need to be aware.  We need to know that as we spread out over more land and absorb more resources, we take away things such as followers and habitat for bees colonies...organisms that help distribute pollen which helps grow the food we eat and thereby helps us live.  It matters.  In a way, Jenny Kendler's art is a slightly less in-your-face version of the art of Chris Jordan, whom I like a lot as well.

I like where Ms. Kendell is going with her installations.  I've said before that problems regarding our environment are the defining matters of our time.  They are scientific in nature.  The solutions to said problems, however, will require creativity to conjure.

For that, we need artists.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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