“Caution, clouds release needles. Please stay behind black line.”
These words of caution are real, since Yi-Chuan Chen’s polyester acid rain clouds contain real sewing needles that will prick those daring to get too close. Chen, who studied painting and art education in Taiwan, is just one of 15 artists collected from around the globe for Global Warming at the Icebox, a show put together by Philadelphia Sculptors to bring environmental awareness to artists’ expressions.
Today’s election will raise many important questions about the state of this country and the conditions of our world, but the environment is an issue that can no longer afford to be overlooked. It may be too late to sway your vote for the presidential election, but Philadelphia Sculptors, a local coalition of artists, has put this show together in the Crane Arts Building in a room ironically called the icebox to bring consciousness to the topic in a new and profound way.
“I like art that has meaning to it. And I think I was getting a bit frustrated with the types of shows that … didn’t seem to be trying to make any kind of statement but trying to see how edgy people could be. There’s value in that, but I was looking to do something a little different,” said Leslie Kaufman, founder of Philadelphia Sculptors and head curator for the exhibition. “It seemed to me it was time for artists to show to the world that they could make statements on issues that really mattered to people.”
With help from co-curator Cheryl Harper and juror Adelina Vlas, Kaufman invited five artists and then had to painstakingly pick only 10 artists out of 84 applicants.
“We got a very different response than we thought. As a result of that, we got to pick some really exciting work,” Kaufman said.
It features artists from Ireland, Israel, Taiwan, Germany, Puerto Rico, the United States and Canada.
Many of these pieces are meant to utilize satire, but the hilarity only brings more weight to the issue at hand when onlookers realize what is at stake. Andrew Chartier from Quebec created a “Dioxigrapher,” which is made up of a funnel, some pieces of chalk and a spinning, wheeled platform.
Chartier came before the start of the exhibition to dress in faux construction clothes and hit the streets of Philadelphia with his apparatus. In his video, Chartier places his device behind car exhaust pipes. Depending on what toxins are emitted, the tool draws with different colored chalk on the pavement.
There’s also Miguel Luciano from Puerto Rico with his “Piragua Cart,” which serves as a water ice cart but is tricked out with subwoofers, chrome and television sets. A rap about global warming and footage of Antarctic glaciers blasts out of the icebox.
Shai Zakai, an artist from Israel, put together a huge library of threatened plant species she collected from 19 different countries. Large black shelves with black boxes hold her specimens, which are accompanied by written descriptions and lyrical annotations of the plants.
“They’re really interesting looking. They’re also a way of sequestering carbon,” Kaufman said. “As things die, they hold carbon, so each of these holds carbon.”
When asked how people have been reacting to the show so far, Kaufman said she knows that as long as0 they walk away with something to think about, it’s worth it.
“It’s great when people have reactions that you don’t anticipate,” Kaufman said. “It’s great.”
Tiffany Yoon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.