Green New Art

Caril Chasens

I am not interested in setting up one-way rules. There can, of course, be many possible new directions in art. (I am using the word new loosely, because the word is loose.) And new directions don't invalidate older ones. Simply, I hope I can be part of a new green art.

Right now, in human history, some of us are looking at nature, and at ourselves, with ideas that are potent and humane.

Some of us look at natural environments with new intensity, born of concern that we may be about to lose much of it. It is no longer unusual to visualize an environment as an active, interrelated flow, where the small part can change the whole. I want art that reflects this perception. I choose to carve sculpture from wood; the substance of wood contains, resonates with, the processes of nature and the wild complexity of the natural world.

And, we look at ourselves. It is no longer unusual to see person, people, human experience as active interrelated flow, where the smallest part is potentially active and vital. Here again, the least is potent, the whole is interrelated. It shouldn't surprise us that we share the nature of natural systems. Green new art is relevant here.

In a previous century, when I was a child, with a child's intolerance and self-absorption, I saw the sculpture. You know the one, a big block of something. The reduced simplicity probably did many things. To me, it snubbed details. I knew that I was a detail. Now, I might simply say that human- including and nature-including artwork is also necessary.

A related concept: Mathematics, even. We are no longer limited to the sleek geometries that have little or no resonance nature and with us. Consider fractals, the Mandelbrot sets, for instance. Benoit Mandelbrot's mathematics was driven in part by the real patterns of the world. Graphics generated by the Mandelbrot sets are beautiful, infinitely complex, suggesting coastlines or perhaps an environment, or some strange and complex plant, and they can be magnified as much as you like without losing the complexity and beauty.1

Back in 1960, on a primitive computer, Edward Lorenz created a toy weather simulation. By accident, he discovered that a tiny difference in the numbers he started with, a difference in the fourth decimal place (that is a 10 000 th) caused a fast and absolute change in the way the weather developed. The principle is that the smallest influence can affect the whole, and not only in a small way. It has been expressed in the Butterfly Effect analogy. This is the notion that a butterfly stirring the air with its wings in your back yard can transform storm systems, at some time in the future and half way around the world.2 I observe the principle in the way a work of art develops.

I love the way this stuff validates my gut feelings about our world and us.

Wood is a great medium for 21st century art; woodcarving is my medium. Beyond that, I wonder. Digital media, of course, for fractals and what else. Metal flows and runs. Paint, in some styles, has always captured some of this; paint is adaptable. And what, I wonder.

1 Chaos: the Making of a New Science, James Gleik, 1987

2 ibid.

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