ASU fuses sustainability with art
The topic of sustainability usually involves preserving the Earth and its resources through technology and science. ASU’s Institute for Humanities Research, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has taken a different route to examine this topic by playing host to two art exhibitions that fuse the humanities and sustainability.
The exhibitions explore the relationship between human beings and nature and propose solutions within existing cultural structures.
“Sustainability and the Visual Arts” was on display last semester. “Between Two Worlds: Art by Melanie Yazzie” is currently on display.
“The Institute for Humanities Research is enlarging the university’s definition of its sustainability initiative by highlighting the contributions of the humanities and the arts,” says Sally Kitch, founding director of the institute and co-curator of the exhibitions. “The ‘Sustainability and the Visual Arts’ exhibition, which was a juried show of student and community work, is part of the institute’s larger commitment to the humanities and sustainability.”
The exhibition, which was on display from October to January, showcased two-dimensional and small-scale sculptures from eight artists. The artists were asked to explore new meanings and interpretations of sustainability. Local artists related their experiences in the Valley, preserving their cultural and linguistic experiences, while others used new materials and methodologies when creating their work.
“The humanities and the arts can provide such contextual knowledge, evoke emotional as well as analytical responses to our current environmental crisis, and situate proposed solutions within larger cultural frameworks,” Kitch says. “The humanities and the arts can also help redesign the future, redefine the relationship between human beings and nature, and reformulate the connection of human societies to the Earth and all of its systems.”
“The exhibit proves that works of art can posit critical viewpoints and perspectives,” says John-Michael Warner, graduate student and the other co-curator of the exhibition. “This exhibition also revitalizes sustainability and the ways we understand it. In order for sustainability to become a successful ideology, humanists, scientists and artists must be invited to the table.”
The exhibitors included Amy Richardson, Mary Lyverse, Adam Frus, Candace Jim, Maria Michails, Lisa Corine von Koch, Keith Stanton and Chloe Palmer.
The current exhibit “Between Two Worlds: Art by Melanie Yazzie,” is a compilation of 15 pieces spanning the artist’s career. As a printmaker, painter and sculptor, Yazzie uses her work to explore how she lives as a Native American in the contemporary world, and how she negotiates that space as a human being and artist. Her art stems from her world travels, childhood memories and personal triumphs.
“I think when I travel, I realize that we’re all coming from different cultures and places but we are all human beings that have common experiences of living on this Earth,” says Yazzie, an associate professor of art at the University of Colorado-Boulder. “The symbols and ideas that are important in one location, would be just as important in other places, but displayed in a different manner.”
According to Warner, melding the humanities and art provides cultural, historic and linguistic inclusion and exchange, while collaborating across disciplines including human rights, gender identity, critical race and feminist theories introduces the opportunity to pose new questions.
Yazzie’s exhibition will be open during business hours through May 14 at the Institute for Humanities Research in the Social Sciences Building, room 107, at ASU’s Tempe campus. The works of art in the “Between Two Worlds: Art by Melanie Yazzie” exhibition were loaned from the Glenn Green Galleries and Sculpture Garden, Bluejacket Family Collection, Hayward Simoneaux and John-Michael Warner.
More information can be found at the Web site asu.edu/clas/ihr.