‘Gaia’s Lament: Art Cry’ opens July 3 at the Hygienic

“Swept Away,” bronze on marble sculpture by Renee Rhodes. (Photo by A. Vincent Scarano)
“Swept Away,” bronze on marble sculpture by Renee Rhodes. (Photo by A. Vincent Scarano)

What got a local artist heated up enough to attend a climate change march in New York City in the spring of 2014 has become a huge multi-media event titled “Gaia’s Lament: Art Cry,” opening at New London’s Hygienic Art Galleries on July 3.

“I thought about 100,000 people would show up at the march. Over half a million people showed up,” says Renee Rhodes, a sculptor, psychotherapist and environmental activist, who conceived of “Gaia’s Lament.”

“Moveon.org had arranged a moment of silence to make a statement about what is happening to the earth, how it’s getting destroyed,” Rhodes recalls. “Everyone was silent at 1 p.m. and after the minute was up, I swear, the ground started rumbling. This wave of people was roaring, wailing, crying out, all in unison — all unplanned. It was a cry of protest, so profound, I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

That’s when Rhodes came up with the words “Art Cry” to incorporate into the title of the event that began taking shape in her mind.

“Gaia” is the name of the goddess in the Hygienic courtyard that Rhodes sculpted a decade ago and from which she started a major body of work titled “The Tree Spirit Series,” embodying the voices of trees. The series will debut at the exhibit. In Greek mythology, Gaia is the primal mother goddess, creator and giver of life to the earth and entire universe.

“So now, 10 years later, she’s not so happy, Gaia,” Rhodes says. “She might survive, but the human race won’t. I thought, let’s do something about this. The Hygienic is the conduit of truth on the art scene. It’s there to facilitate artists speaking out in any way they need to, and I knew I could count on the Hygienic to back this up, to be visionary.”

Rhodes started a salon about a year and a half ago that meets monthly at her home/studio in Killingworth to talk about artistic aesthetic and have a dialogue about “What are we doing this for?” “What are we trying to say?”

“It’s a powerhouse of all creative people — all women, not by intent — and we decided we have got to do a show (that addresses) the irrational denial of climate change/global warming,” Rhodes explains. “We’d use music and images to wake people up. It had to be grassroots. It’s not going to come from the government or industry or individuals. It has to be a collective consciousness that gets created through intent, public events, where we join people together using the (visual and performing) arts.”

From there, Rhodes says, the exhibit/event took on a life of its own with artists of all genres joining in. 

Many arts forms, one common message

The underlying theme of “Gaia’s Lament” is that the works are all connected by the beauty and vulnerability of planet Earth. Sculptors, painters, installation artists, photographers, choreographers, dancers and poets all share a common focus on some aspect of the eight major impacts of climate change.

In addition to Rhodes, sculptor Serena Bates of Westerly will exhibit her new work “A Murder of Crows,” which she describes as “an allegorical representation of how the very nature we are impacting, will eventually take over in order to survive.”

Among the many contributing painters is Rosemary Cotnoir of Essex, whose work depicts the beauty and majesty of trees; Linda Talerico of Stonington, who imagines Gaia herself in her art; Gray Jacobik of Deep River, an encaustic artist creating images of the Earth as they’d appear from space; and Del-Bourree Bach of Mystic, who, to symbolize species endangerment and extinction, is contributing a large portrait of a whale and a painting of an osprey titled “Some Enchanted Evening.”

Carol Young of Essex, a sculptor, painter and playwright, has created an installation piece made of recycled materials, including a giant Tinker Toy and 8-foot-tall robot.

In addition, two photographers will be exhibiting: Claudia Van Nes of Chester and Sue Connolly of New London.

Throughout the exhibition, the film “Planetary,” will be shown on a continuous loop. Made by members of the Planetary Collective, the film has been described as a provocative wake-up call exploring our cosmic origins and future as a species.

Sue Connolly, a volunteer organizer of the annual Youth Talent Show at New London’s Garde Arts Center, connected Rhodes with young dancers for the performance part of the “Gaia’s Lament.”

“We wanted to bring the whole community of New London into this event, including younger people,” Rhodes stresses.

Opening night offers an original choreographed dance from the troupe Buoy, incorporating dancers from the Wild Angels Collective, as well as young hip-hop performers Todd Belcher, a native New Londoner and self-taught dancer, who has appeared in three of the youth talent shows at The Garde; college student D’Andrea Knox, director and choreographer of Dance in Fusion of New London County and dance teacher in Norwich public schools; and Michael Okoasia, a self-taught dancer who impressed judges at his audition for the New London talent show with an African hip-hop piece he choreographed.

Following the dance performance will be a spoken-word performance by Naomi Jones of New London and poet and environmentalist Joanie DiMartino of Mystic, who will present an original work about the endangered whale.

“The energy and passion that’s going into this will go out into the ether waves and make a difference,” says Rhodes of “Gaia’s Lament,” “and it’s not just us — people are doing this across the country.

“As an artist, it’s how I can make a comment,” Rhodes says, “but I also believe that sometimes it takes something that sneaks in under our habitual ways of thinking to wake people up, and art can do that.”

“Where the Laughing Gull Swoops”; encaustic on cradled panel by Gray Jacobik (Photo by Gray Jacobik)
“Where the Laughing Gull Swoops”; encaustic on cradled panel by Gray Jacobik (Photo by Gray Jacobik)

IF YOU GO

What: “Gaia’s Lament: Art Cry”

Where: Hygienic Art Gallery & Courtyard, 79 Bank St., New London

When: An opening reception will be held on July 3 from 7 to 11 p.m. The show runs through Aug. 4. 

SPECIAL EVENTS

July 18, 7 to 9 p.m. - Two major poets of Southeastern Connecticut, Jude Rittenhouse and Joanie DiMartino are sponsoring a reading at which eight area poets will read poems connected with the power, beauty, spirit, and future of the Earth, and the current environmental crisis.

More related events are being scheduled. Check the Hygienic website for updates: www.hygienic.ning.com or call (860) 443-8001.

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