Kate Cheney Chappell Art Space

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InterRelated: One Artist's Response to Silent Spring

My exhibit, "InterRelated: One Artist’s Response to Silent Spring," marked the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book when it opened on September 27, 2012 at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. Chatham is the women's college that both Carson and I attended. I want my show to inspire viewers to re-engage with the natural world, and to examine how Rachel Carson’s words of warning 50 years ago could have relevance today. Over 60 works are on view at the Woodside Gallery through November 15, including a new artist’s book, “DDT in Words and Mirror Images.” The interactive Eagle Eggs and Nest installation, built on the quad with the help of students, asks participants to confront the facts of DDT’s effect on the environment, and to reflect on related quotes from Rachel Carson’s writings.

An article about the show was printed in the University's publication Communiqué. A PDF can be downloaded here.

In conjunction with this exhibition a 52 page full-color catalog was produced which can be orderd here.

Making the Eggs

With the help of Maine ceramic artist, Sharon Townshend, and my assistant Laura Savard, I made 20 clay eggs (18 eagle size, 2 larger) and fired them in Townshend’s outdoor kiln in June, using the Japanese Raku method. The eggs were heated to 1800 degrees, and plunged red-hot into metal barrels filled with sawdust and paper. The shock of temperature change caused crazing; smoke filled the cracks in the glaze, emphasizing the fragility of eagles’ eggs compromised by DDT.

Click on the image at left to see more images of the Raku eggs

Building the Nest

On September 22, I met with art students and their teacher, Corey Escoto, in the amphitheater area of the quad across from the gallery entrance. Like eagles that recycle old wood for their nests, they had been collecting dead branches from around the university campus. I had marked the circumference with leaves, and we dug slits in the sod to insert angled limbs following this circle. The weaving of large and small branches evolved organically as the group settled into a meditative rhythm. By lunch, we had an 8-foot wide nest on the ground, double the size of an eagle’s nest in a tree in the wild. We placed a single Raku egg in the middle. A nest is more than a collection of dead branches. It is a sign of hope, a building for the next generation.

Click on the image at left to see more inages of the building of the giant nest.

Eagle Egg Hunt & Reflections

On September 29, a group of students, faculty and administration met with me in the gallery. We each took an open eagle’s egg from the indoor installation, and placed two rolled vellum messages inside:

  • a fact about why DDT was harmful to eagles and their eggs
  • a quote from Rachel Carson

We went outside, and stood in a circle, our backs to each other, then walked away 20 paces and hid our eggs. Returning to the circle, we found a different spot on the compass circle, and walked out from there to find the eggs. We gathered again in the gallery to write our reflections on what we discovered inside. Questions: How is this relevant today? Considering your talents, what response or action might you take to make a difference, as Rachel Carson did with her gift of writing?

Click on the image at left to see more.

Indoor Installation and the Opening

Here are some shots of the Opening night, as well as a view of the indoor installation of a nest made of raffia, loosely intertwining the 18 life-size eagle’s eggs. Click on the image at left to see additional pictures.