Homestead - South Dade

Artists display concern with climate change in national parks

“Pink Ladies” is the piece about the Pink Lady Slipper plant that grows in Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee. It is a three-dimensional quilt piece that was painted and stitched together for the exhibit, “Piecing Together a Changing Planet,” at Biscayne National Park. It costs $2500.
“Pink Ladies” is the piece about the Pink Lady Slipper plant that grows in Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee. It is a three-dimensional quilt piece that was painted and stitched together for the exhibit, “Piecing Together a Changing Planet,” at Biscayne National Park. It costs $2500. Courtesy

Melani Brewer had enjoyed spending time outdoors since she was a little girl, collecting Monarch butterflies.

A fiber artist and former biology teacher, Brewer worries about the future of the species due to the changes in their environment. In her quilted art, she features some of the creatures found in nature that would die out from the continued effects of the changing global and regional climate patterns due to fossil fuel emissions.

“We are facing problems with climate change, which affects the plants they survive on,” she said.

Brewer is one of the 36 artists in the Florida region of the Studio Art Quilt Associates, a 3,000-member national organization, who are participating in the quilt art exhibit, “Piecing Together a Changing Planet.” The exhibit is on display at Biscayne National Park until Feb. 27.

The final 26 pieces from 22 Florida artists were selected by an SAQA member who acted as judge to become part of a national traveling exhibit. The quilted art pieces will be displayed in nine other national parks, touring the country until early 2017 as part of the National Park Service’s centennial celebration in 2016. Most of the artwork is for sale, and prices vary from $1,200 to several thousand dollars.

Maya Schonenberger, the curator to the exhibit, said that making quilt art is more complicated than making traditional quilts used as a bed covering, and that there are many more technologies and techniques involved.

“Nothing comes from a pattern,” she said. Instead, the quilts on display look like textured and three-dimensional paintings.

Some of the techniques involved include printmaking, freehand machine embroidery, photo transfers, machine-stitching, thread-painting and discharge printing.

Artists picked various climate change themes, shedding light on issues of public concern.

For example, Andrea Huffman’s piece, “Encroachment,” focused on the problems with urban sprawl and how wildlife ends up wandering into communities that were built on their natural habitats.

Schonenberger combined the issues of melting glaciers and coral bleaching in her piece titled “You’ve Got Brains.” It took her about three weeks to put it together.

“The melting glaciers and coral bleaching were my concerns on climate change,” she said. “I am confronted with both issues while skiing and snorkeling.”

Some of the effects of climate change include rising temperatures in the oceans and atmosphere, melting snow and ice and rising sea levels, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which met in Denmark in October. Many of the 401 national parks are testament of these changes.

The exhibit was sponsored by the National Park Service’s Climate Change Response Program, the South Florida National Parks Trust, Les Bouquinistes Book Club and an anonymous donor.

Some artists, like Déda Maldonado, tried to come up with solutions or guidelines to enable change. Her piece, called “The Answer is Blowing in the Wind,” features wind turbines to emphasize the need to use wind power and other clean energy to reduce emissions.

“We talk too much about the problem,” she said. “So I focused on solutions.”

Others considered showing how human action and policy have caused the problem and how changing this human behavior is essential to improving conditions.

Artists Bobbi Baugh and John Lewis worked together on a piece, “End of Eden.” It shows a series of digitally transferred images that represent causes of climate change, like the extraction and use of fossil fuels.

As water trickles down from a fountain in the heavens at the top of the quilt, it dries up as it reaches the bottom of the quilt: a hellish world that is the potential outcome if nothing changes.

“If we could change things in the quilt — the human folly that’s involved,” said Baugh. “Art has the capacity to change people’s hearts and minds.”

If You Go

“Piecing Together a Changing Planet,” is on display at Biscayne National Park’s Dante Fascell Visitor Center Gallery, 9700 SW 328 Street. The show is open daily from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. through Feb. 27, 2015. Admission is free.

  Comments