We are excited to launch ourselves into fall with a new opens in a new windowPhoto Chat Chat happening on September 9th at 7pm Eastern time. Each of these artists were part of our opens in a new window26th Annual Members Juried Exhibition, curated by Alexa Dilworth.
Our Photo Chat Chat is a monthly conversation bringing together four members of the Griffin community to share their work, ideas and creativity with a broader audience. We are thrilled to bring together these four artists who have unique perspectives on life and loss, the environment and the simple joys of childhood.
See you Wednesday night at 7pm Eastern. For tickets log onto our opens in a new windowEvents page.
The Garden of Endearment
Child’s play, like life itself, is serious. Through play children address both their fears and their dreams. Animals, places, and objects are metaphors to help them make sense of the world as they act out their fantasies. The natural world possesses an invisible but powerful energy. Humans can communicate with animals. Children don’t doubt these facts. They still live in The Garden, close to nature, close to what’s essential. As adults, we know that they can’t stay. One gray night it will happen: a veil will fall, a gate will close, and the marvelous will cease to exist. What if we could help children keep their sense of awe and respect for nature and foster a belief in the value of things not seen but felt? What children learn to appreciate and love is what they will protect in the future.
The Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is a very fragile, spring-fed estuary on Florida’s Gulf Coast, north of Tampa. I was overwhelmed by its lush, primeval beauty on my first visit over 30 years ago and have photographed there extensively since 2004. The dense palm hammocks and hardwood forests were festooned with ferns and orchids and the fresh water creeks were a clear azure. There are other similar estuaries nearby but the Chassahowitzka River and the surrounding wetlands are protected as part of the federal National Wildlife Refuge system and the river itself is designated as an Outstanding Florida Water. Unfortunately, saltwater began creeping up into the spring creeks around 2011. Rising sea levels due to climate change are the primary cause. However, the saltwater intrusion was accelerated when the state water commissioners, appointed by climate change denier and former governor Rick Scott, determined that the wetlands could survive with less fresh water. This new minimum flow policy allows the state to increase the pumping of fresh water for large-scale inland developments and agricultural interests. The drawdown of fresh water for these lobbyists has taken fresh water away from the aquifer that feeds Chassahowitzka’s springs and many others nearby. As the fresh water flow in the estuaries decreased, saltwater advanced upstream and took its place. What had been verdant, semi-tropical forest is now mostly an open plain of grasses relieved by palms and dying hardwood trees. Sabal palms are the most salt tolerant trees in this ecosystem and are the last to expire. This is a widespread phenomenon, occurring all along the Big Bend section of the Gulf coast of Florida. In 2014, I began to photograph in the salt-damaged sawgrass savannas and spring creeks there as a way of reckoning with the ecosystem loss and of understanding what has become of my native Florida. I have narrowed my focus to a small, remote area that I know and love. My intention in bearing witness to this loss has been to portray the ruined landscape with respect, nuance and beauty. There is an elegiac quality in these evolving wetlands and the process of documenting it has been difficult for me. This landscape was imprinted on me as a child and it has been painful to see such verdant wetlands decimated. The submersion of these coastal wetlands is a disturbing bellwether; as they go, so goes the rest of Florida’s shorelines and the world’s.
Neelakantan Sunder –
Children of ITIPINI
Itipini was a slum built on a garbage dump in a corner of Mthatha in South Africa. The name Itipini means dump in Xhosa language. It was one of the poorest slum in the region. There was no electricity , no running water and primitive dwellings for shelter. There was a community center and a clinic run by a dedicated group of volunteers of the African Medical Mission. People there belonged to Xhosa tribe and have their own traditions. My wife and I visited Itipini during our volunteer work in Mthatha. I was struck by the resilience and the energy of the children. Children would ask to be photographed and then run to me and look at the screen to see the image. They were excited to touch the camera and move the image around. There was laughter and amusement in doing that. Extreme poverty and difficult living condition did not dampen their enthusiasm. I spent sometime photographing in the community and enjoyed interacting with the people. My challenge was to photograph the people and not focus on poverty or living conditions. Sadly, a short time after my visit the whole area was bulldozed and the people were relocated moved randomly to different shelters and camps. These are the last photographs of the community and the area. I had made a book of the photographs of Itipini and gifted copies to the African Medical Mission. These are some of the photographs of the children at the community.
“With each loss of my 11 babies, I kept mementos. They are all kept pristinely stored in a white box in my closet, as are the memories of their short lives kept pristinely stored in my heart.” My series “Lost” is based on my personal experience. It had been ten years since my last loss. I had never shared these mementoes with anyone as they are private and personal and go to the core of my emotions both heartwarming and heart wrenching simultaneously. I have read the assertion that meaningful art occurs when you share yourself and create from the depths of your soul. So I shared. Creating this series has both served to honor these precious lives, as well as bring a voice to my personal plight. I am hopeful that in sharing these images I will touch the lives of numerous women who have experienced or are in the midst of experiencing the painful loss of a baby. They are not alone in their journey. I created my “Lost” images in a humble and pristine fashion in direct correlation to their short and pure lives. There are 10 images in this series.