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Upper Valley Artist Lia Rothstein Named BMAC Climate Change Artist in Residence
Lia Rothstein of Hanover, New Hampshire has been named the 2023 Climate Change Artist in Residence by Brattleboro Museum and Art Center.
“We received 83 applications from artists around the world,” BMAC Director of Exhibitions Sarah Freeman said. “The work Lia Rothstein is doing with bioplastics struck us as incredibly creative, interesting, and hopeful.”
These are plastics of a different kind. Encountering diminishing glaciers during her artist residency in 2012 at the Baer Art Center in Hofsos, Iceland caused Rothstein to think anew about climate change. This led to a search for biodegradable materials for use in sculpture. Bioplastics seemed promising, as unlike ordinary plastics, they are obtained from renewable sources and are often biodegradable.
Asked what she will be doing on her first day of her residency, Lia said she will continue her experiments. “I keep records of what is working and what isn't for the art-making purposes I have in mind. It's going to be an ongoing research process and there are a lot of variables to consider that affect the outcomes.” She is investigating uses for bioplastics made from agar, cassava, and tapioca, and reports that work is already being done elsewhere in developing packaging derived from these sources more commonly associated with food.
The biodegradable nature of bioplastics caused me to ask this question:
Q. When I read “biodegradable,” I immediately thought of Eva Hesse (and there are probably others) whose latex and other works from decades ago are in poor shape due to the nature of the materials used. Apparently there has been a debate about whether to restore them. She herself is reported to have commented that permanency is not something she necessarily desired , and said “Art doesn’t last.” Do you worry that biodegradable materials might mean a shorter shelf-life for your sculptures?
“This is a great question that could lead to a lengthy discussion about the purpose of art but I can say here that one thing I'm trying to do during my residency is to encourage artists and the general public to think more about the materials they are using beyond the production of an art object itself.
. . .
I am testing the longevity of the materials I am currently using but, like artists who create ephemeral works like Andy Goldworthy, whom I'm certainly not comparing myself to in any way, I am more concerned about creating art that causes the viewer to feel something in the moment they see it and, hopefully, to think about what is permanent or transitory in our lives and in the future of our planet with climate change.”
Not-so-fun fact: Needless to say, the world is awash in bad plastic. In a study about whales and what they eat, Stanford research found "the whales predominantly feed 50 to 250 meters below the surface, a depth that coincides with the highest concentrations of microplastic in the open ocean. The planet’s biggest creature – the blue whale – ingests the most plastic, at an estimated 10 million [!] pieces per day." And not from the water itself, but from eating the krill that are eating the plastic, which means whales may be undernourished.
The research was conducted by Jeremy Goldbogen's lab, Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. Click here.
Founded in 1972, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center presents rotating exhibits of contemporary art, complemented by lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and other public programs. BMAC is open Wednesday-Sunday, 10-4. Admission is on a “pay-as-you-wish” basis. Located in historic Union Station in downtown Brattleboro, at the intersection of Main Street and Routes 119 and 142, the museum is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit brattleboromuseum.org.
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.