At the Palmer Museum: When the Water Rises

"The gods weave misfortunes for men so the generations to come will have something to sing about." - Homer.

I am fortunate to work in a huge, diverse, wonderful University where all kinds of things are happening all the time. There is art, there are performances, there are places to go and things to see and do. So when I heard there was a new exhibit at Penn State's Palmer Museum of Art, I did just what I would advise the rest of you to do: GO AND SEE!!!

The exhibit is called When the Water Rises, it's there through September 2, and it includes paintings by Julie Heffernan. The exhibit features about a dozen large works displayed in a gallery on the second floor. You can probably see most of it in about 15 minutes if that's all the time you have. But do yourself a favor and spend a little bit more. (BTW, entrance to the museum itself is free.)

You have to go past the sweet little gift shop to get to the exhibit. Be sure to check out all of the colorful critters and gifts; I almost never leave without something new. On this day, it was the book that accompanies the exhibit, published by the Louisiana State University's Museum of Art. The quote above appears at the start of the book. Here's a little bit of what it says about this exhibit.

"This recent body of work tackles the controversial and compelling political and cultural area of climate change. We are challenged to view these worlds of rising water as a clarion call to survival. Figures are seen moving to the trees, to higher ground.

Coastal issues are especially prevalent in Louisiana, but in fact are having an effect on the entire world. From distant archipelagos to Manhattan, from Florida to the Jersey shore, the waters are hitting us hard. These images of survival and escape are at once magical, fantastic, and mystical, while the use of blues, greens, and pinks sweeten while expressing a view of disasters looming large.

Mother earth is rising up, challenging us to live in a water world with its torrents, and blasting winds. If we can . . . however, these works also represent a hoped-for return to nature and a strong instinct for survival against all odds. She seems to say, heed the warnings and embrace nature, simplify and come together to live and thrive."

Whew! That's a mouthful, but an important message. For myself, I found the images fantastical and amazing. They cover big themes, but are filled with intricate details. So for today's blip, I'm showing one full work and one detail. The painting above is called "Self-Portrat as Hiveminder," and you can see the artist has inserted herself into her work as a tiny figure with a chainsaw (look at the lower right quadrant to see her).

I've also included a detail from one of her other works, Self-Portrait as Other Thief, in the extras. I was wandering around both fearing for our future survival as human beings on this planet and also fully enjoying the creativity and strange beauty of the individual works, when I realized the tiny pale figures looked familiar. Take a gander at the detail in the extras; does the work of Hieronymus Bosch come to mind? A strange new garden of earthly delights, perhaps. . . . after the apocalypse of water.

And where will YOU be when the water rises?

The soundtrack song can only be this: Johnny Cash, with Five Feet High and Rising.

Related links and info:
Palmer Museum
Julie Heffernan
Garden of Earthly Delights
Garden of Earthly Delights, interactive version

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