Monday, August 4, 2008

Charlotte V Rodenberg: Art as Catalyst

Many of us see Charlotte around school, working incessantly with her reclaimed materials and making it all into something beautiful. I asked her why she makes her artwork, why else other than survival. Stoƶp has been reminding me that not everyone thinks of themselves in the greater picture of the world, as an artist or even as a person. Charlotte seems to be very aware of herself and the society around her. She is committed to eating beans to practice her art, hopefully one day she will get a break and get herself something else to eat but for now she is making sacrifices to be here, like we all hopefully are. Are you committed to something and want to share? Why do you make your art? Comment!

Why does she make her art? She replied with something short in the email and attached a longer artists statement.
I feel it is important for artists to address today’s society’s ills and ask questions of ourselves and others in order to create social awareness and change. Art has the unique ability to do so. By creating a visually seductive work, the viewer can become involved in the piece long enough to question its purpose and motive. My goal is to make work, which engages the viewer on a deeper emotional level and creates critical dialog and response.

Art as Catalyst:
I strongly believe that art can be a catalyst for social change and awareness. As an artist, I feel it is my responsibility to ask questions of the viewer and myself. With common refuse or detritus as my medium of choice, I am able to speak on topics such as consumerism and today’s waste society. “The overwhelming alienation and depersonalization of our contemporary inner cities is insistently personalized through the work’s adamant handmade quality, indicating how the ubiquitous discarded and decrepit objects which populate this landscape are perpetually available for psychological engagement as loci of personal or cultural memory.”[i]

I have used such discarded and salvaged materials to build my most recent body of work on the theme of global warming. The mascot I have chosen for this cause is the polar bear, which recently was put on the endangered species list as the first species to be endangered due to global warming.

The first of these sculptures “Get out of here Polar Bear, we don’t like your kind around here, Polar Bear!” consists of a six foot polar bear made of salvaged paper and wire placed in juxtaposition with a looped stop animation film. The center point of this film is a handmade fire hydrant installed on a sidewalk. The hydrant is spewing plastic bags, bubble wrap and other miscellaneous plastics -- representing water -- as well as handmade painted cardboard cans. The combination of the video projection and sculpture represent the cause and effect. The abuse of natural resources such as over consumption of water and the lack of recycling materials aid global warming which is rapidly decreasing the numbers of polar bears who rely on artic ice for mating. The polar bear stands facing the display of wastefulness. His stance is erect in a curious and slightly pitiful manner. His fists pulled in close to his body seem almost defensive. His is a passive bystander and the indirect victim of our consumer waste society.

Another polar bear sculpture “Boo!” consists of a Polar Bear covered in plastic sheeting. The sheeting is a reference to the species imminent extinction unless something drastic is done to stop global warming. By covering the sculpture I both reference antiques covered with cloth to preserve their memories and the use of white sheets by children to dress as ghosts both alluding to the plight of the polar bear and its impending extinction. Much like a ghosts haunting, it is both a warning to the living and a plea for help.

In these works and future works, my goal is to create awareness or reaction to social and environmental issues. In correlation with my belief in art’s power as a social catalyst, I am currently researching the works of Joseph Beuys, Gran Fury, the Guerilla Girls and Peter Schumann, all of who have achieved such an effect through their work.

[i] Quote by.Karen Kurczynski in essay titled ”Reconfigurations: Painting as Drawing” concerning Charlotte Rodenberg’s piece titled “This is my Playground” on TwoFold exhibition at Mass Art

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