Art as a Doorway for Climate Activism: Artist Talk with Jennifer Koney
Program Type:Community Education
Learn about the 55” - Images of Sea Level Rise on the Hayward Shoreline exhibit featuring the works of Jennifer Koney, on display at the Hayward Downtown Library (through January 26).
Artist Statement: While participating as a member of the Adapting to Rising Tides regional research project (2011-2013) that involved 32 municipal and governmental agencies – including the City of Hayward, Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, and East Bay Regional Park District – to determine the possible impacts of climate change on the San Francisco bay estuary from Union City to Emeryville, I was startled and shocked by the initial estimates (now revised) of sea level rise on our Hayward shoreline: 55” by the end of this century.
I believe that art has the power to reveal difficult information before and beyond fear. My large scale, abstract paintings making up the Images of Sea Level Rise series are based on that premise.
The Making of the Paintings and the Process – Over the course of a year, I developed a resist-and-pour painting technique using acrylic paints and a wide-range of resist materials – including cold wax, silver leaf, and tape - gleaned that from my experience creating textiles and batiks many decades prior. Wax resist embodies the urge to protect our fragile ice. Silver leaf references the reflective qualities of ice – an integral component of Earth’s energy balance. Tape parallels our desperate longing to keep it together, no matter what environmental chaos emerges. These protective materials act as a resist to the poured paint that I apply over the painted images of glaciers and icebergs.
The process of pouring and protecting images of glaciers reflects the subject matter itself: inundation and protection.
Why the blue line? With each painting having a horizon line 55” from the floor upon which the viewer stands, the experience of the expected sea level rise of the San Francisco Bay at the Hayward shoreline by the year 2100 is direct and tangible, marked and made physical. The art viewer feels the level of sea level rise as a direct experience. And then the questions come… Where and how much? When? And who gets affected first and most? And how do we give voice to those, often of our most vulnerable communities, in responding to ensure the health and safety of our communities?
What Can We Do? From this direct experience and knowing – before and beyond fear— we can better respond to the climate challenge with hope and determination, compelled to act, to create, to educate, and to inspire strategic, equitable, and empowered action. How to start? Here are some tips and resources: 1) Do one thing in support of a healthy planet for all. 2) Do another. 3) Join others and dare to build the healthy world we want and need together!
Jennifer Koney is an artist, teacher, and climate activist living and working in Hayward, CA. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Michigan and a Master of Fine Arts degree from San Francisco State University.
Inspired by sea level rise research in which she participated, Jennifer created a series of seven door-sized paintings of glaciers and icebergs depicting the possible impacts of sea level rise locally. Using a resist and pour painting process that she developed, each painting has a 55” horizon line that marks and makes physical the anticipated levels of sea level rise for the San Francisco Bay Area.
Jennifer continues to use her art as a tool for increasing environmental awareness and is a climate activist with 350 Bay Area Action advocating for strong climate action legislation in California and working with community members to plant more trees in Hayward as a direct climate action. Currently she teaches “Hike, Sketch and Watercolor” workshops for Hayward Area Recreation and Park District using sketching as a tool to deepen both the memory and a sense of place.