Home Uncategorized An artist set out to paint climate change. She ended up on a journey through…


An artist set out to paint climate change. She ended up on a journey through…

by Ace Damon
An artist set out to paint climate change. She ended up on a journey through...

It had been a long day and Daniela Molnar's mind was wandering when she saw the shape. The form of what was already lost; the form of something new that had just emerged.

Little did she know, it was a way that would expose a deep feeling of grief within her – and then help her process it.

In literal terms, the shape was made up of missing pieces of the Eliot Glacier on Mt. Hood that had melted because of climate change, exposing land that had not seen sunlight for hundreds of years. It flickered on the projector screen during a lecture by a hydrologist that Molnar began to disconnect.

I've never seen this shape before, Molnar thought. an artist and professor at Pacific Northwest College of Art. "Maybe I can use that."
At home in Portland, Molnar projected the image on his screen, revealing the ghostly bark of a mountain. Then she began painting it using crushed stones mixed with gum arabic – a paste – and water from the rain barrel in her backyard.

Its purpose was initially to draw attention to climate change and to form an often abstract question.

Daniela Molnar examines a play entitled “Water Topography 1” while other works in the series are on a wall of her studio.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

"Here, look at this, you can see it now," Molnar remembered thinking. "And you can see it in an artistic way that can provoke some feeling."
Then Molnar's own feelings began to take over.

On impulse, she painted the contours of other American glaciers diminished over the first, the geometries and shades piling up like pieces of tulle.

"I didn't know where this was going," Molnar recalled. The work became more chaotic and the shapes, in their irregularity, slightly violent. She was also more impressed and confused.

After Molnar created more missing ice paintings, she hit her: that's how it feels when trying to contain the huge losses caused by climate change.

Global warming is transforming Earth's landscapes and ecosystems, swelling the seas and bringing many species closer to extinction. It has already contributed to natural disasters, famines and wars. Even if you accept that humans are to blame, it can be difficult to absorb the full weight of these unpleasant facts. But what if this is the problem?

What if acting on climate change requires that we first feel its true costs? Molnar was about to find out.

Column one

A showcase for compelling Los Angeles Times stories.

The studio where Molnar made the paintings is a small shed nestled between hellebores in the backyard of his home in a quiet neighborhood of Portland. It has a Scandinavian look, with succulents on the windows, cork floors, and piles of books everywhere, including a volume on historical tragedies called "Against Oblivion: Twentieth Century Witness Poetry."

Many artists, including Molnar, are witnessing the changes taking place in the 21st century.

Some have created openly political works that evoke indignation or guilt, such as a sculpture that was exhibited in Paris during the 2015 UN climate talks: a polar bear impaled on an oil pipe.

Others pay tribute to the beauty of the world, such as Zaria Forman, which paints stunning hyperrealistic images of ice using fingertips instead of brushes.

"The confusion of emotions that people feel about the climate crisis can see in the mirror of art," said Miranda Massie, director of the Climate Museum In New York City.

At first glance, it is not clear what Molnar's work is all about.

She paints with translucent, often iridescent pigments that turn from yellow to green, teal to indigo, from purple to red. The shapes are vibrant and beautiful – drawn from scientific studies and satellite imagery – and cover the screen in a colorful ruin confetti.

An artist set out to paint climate change. She ended up on a journey through...

Molnar works on a play titled "New Earth 15."

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

But despite the paintings' cheerful palette, they give Molnar – and viewers – an opportunity to engage with the impressive scope and interconnectedness of climate change.

"You can't extract one piece of glacier from another," Molnar said.

To help your audience, a brief description accompanies each piece, explaining that the shapes represent pieces of land where the ice has melted. Molnar adds that "this new earth is like a wound, or a delicate new skin that formed on a wound and is now (ready or not) exposed to the world."

An artist set out to paint climate change. She ended up on a journey through...

Molnar works at "New Earth 15."

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

While plunging into these confusing geometries, Molnar, who is small with curly black hair and a gray streak of Bonnie Raitt, began to explore a murky pit of excitement. It is evident from the third piece. Overlapping shapes hurt dark blue to black, and uneven red lines cut the screen.
"The project is not just a way of conveying information," she said. "It's a way to face grief."

Mourning is an unpleasant cocktail of emotions: sadness, anxiety, shame, and helplessness, to name a few. Psychologists recognize it as a normal — even necessary — response to loss. And its rising prevalence is another impact of climate change.

Those on the front lines lament the loss of houses burned by fires, drought-altered or melting landscapes, and traditions overturned by ecological unrest.

Some suffer from lost futures or innocent animals that have had the misfortune to exist at this particular time in geological time.

It can be a source of overwhelming, ongoing pain, said Ashlee Cunsolo, who studies environmental change and mental health at Memorial University's Labrador Institute in Canada.

"The environmental suffering of climate change is often described as endless suffering," she said.

However, climate sadness is often stigmatized – or simply not mentioned.

"A lot of people say, 'I never told anyone that because I feel silly,'" Cunsolo said. “Or they said, 'I could never figure out why I was feeling this way. I never had language. "

Even climate activists often encourage us to focus on solutions, not sadness, said Jennifer Atkinson, who teaches environmental humanities at the University of Washington at Bothell.

"There is all this part of the environmental community that is the Hope Police," she said.

Many fear that dwelling in such dark feelings can make people close. But avoiding them is no better, warns Rosemary Randall, Climate Psychology Alliance, a group of UK psychotherapists who specialize in dealing with the mental health consequences of global warming.

Refusing to feel the emotional costs of climate change is just another insidious and socially sanctioned form of denial, she said – one of the roots of the classical psychological defense of compartmentalization.

"There is a part of you that knows perfectly well that climate change is happening and another that doesn't really let it in," she said. "It never gets to your heart."

The division is reinforced by society's tendency to see climate change as a scientific issue, not a cultural and political challenge that demands all of humanity – the kind most often explored and approached by art.

It was unusually hot when Molnar began painting on his back porch in the summer of 2017. The temperatures in Portland reached 100 degrees and the water from the rain barrel seemed even more precious.

Molnar felt as if climate change was affecting her. And, getting lost in the process of creation, he experienced pain as a kaleidoscope of feelings.

In painting an extremely complex piece – made up of pieces of land lost or threatened by the rising sea – she felt a surge of anxiety. Sometimes she would close completely, unable to work.

Shepard Glacier

Molnar draws a projection of an aerial view of the Shepard Glacier in an ongoing play entitled "New Earth 15."

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

But at other times, she found the emotions electrifying. "You're so awake in sadness that it's almost a sublime experience," she said.

Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist in a government laboratory, also experimented with the roller coaster of climate suffering. He was so excited that he burst into tears – once in a public reading of his 2017 book about living more sustainably. "It took me completely by surprise," he said.

He was reading a passage about his children. "How strange it is to bring them to piano lessons and train their football teams and generally pretend that everything is fine when you know you are not," he said.

But he is also grateful for the emotion. "I feel the pain unleashes the action potential," said Kalmus. "It's a way of accepting reality."

These stories make sense to Randall.

Instead of the popular five-stage mourning model, which implies a linear progression from denial to acceptance, it think of mourning as described by J. William Worden of the Rosemead School of Psychology in La Mirada.

Mourning, Worden said, is a continuous set of tasks – such as making room for uncomfortable feelings and adapting to a new reality – that can be adopted or ignored.

The goal, after all, is not to "fix" the suffering. It is learning to live with losses.

"When someone dies, you keep remembering or missing them. You make a way forward that has meaning," she said.

Otherwise, she said, "You end up being taken out, embittered, resentful, and inactive."

And while some may scoff, grief can also be a powerful tool.

Cunsolo points to the moment when the representative of the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu choked the tears while begging for climate action at the 2009 UN ….


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