Thursday, March 5, 2009

20th Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez Spill Art Exhibit Opens Tour Friday in Homer

The most energetic and comprehensive effort to mount a multimedia art exhibit, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, opens Friday afternoon at the Bunnell Street Gallery in Homer, Alaska.

According to the exhibit's curator and Bunnell Street Gallery artistic director Asia Freeman, "Alaskan artists were asked to create new work that addressed the spill in their own style and media."

There will be works by over 30 visual artists, working in paint, sculpture, photography, video, printmaking, beading and mixed media. There will be performing artists, and a new soundscape by Alaska-born composer Matthew Burtner.

The show, titled SPILL A 20TH ANNIVERSARY REMEMBRANCE OF THE EXXON VALDEZ OIL SPILL, MARCH 24, 1989, will move from Homer to Kodiak, Cordova, Kenai-Soldotna and Anchorage over the course of the next six months.

In an article by Katie Emerick in today's Homer Tribune, Freeman further describes aspects of the exhibit:

"The show is really about choosing not to forget about accountability. [The spill] was an environmental holocaust that all kinds of people in the science, fisheries, eco-tourism and art worlds continue to feel and mourn.

"There is a profound emotional response for several of the younger artists. It really didn't seem to be an issue to them that they weren't there directly or immediately connected to the spill. Alaska is their mother.

"You are allowed to be angry about something that happened to your mother," Freeman explained. "It's a very visceral response. People go from being really angry to being really sad to still looking for ways to redeem and protect. I find it interesting how the spill itself lives on."

The Tribune's Emerick describes one work:

Michael Walsh, a local artist with one of the more unusual installations in the exhibit, constructed an outhouse with a video in the toilet showing archival footage of the building of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in the mid '70s. Looped over half the footage are dancing strippers and images painted on the toilet including Ted Stevens and Sarah Palin. Walsh said they're the inspiration behind the installations title, "Drill, Baby, Drill."

While controversial, Walsh sees the piece as deeply symbolic of an event that has continued to trigger political debate and expose governmental negligence.

"It was my attempt to make a statement about how many Alaskans feel about oil and what I feel about it," Walsh said. "So many people here feel good about where we live and take pride in our communities. We take care of each other, and when the oil industry has so much money wrapped up in this society, it creates greed and mismanagement."

Walsh said it was his intent to focus his piece on the present and future of the oil industry, and not about Exxon specifically.

On Tuesday, I helped UAA colleague Sean Licka pack his contribution for shipping to Homer. Afterward, I spoke with Asia Freeman about my hopes of visiting the exhibit in Homer.

Having participated twice now in art about the Exxon Valdez oil spill, I've mixed feelings about not being a part of this one. On the one hand, I probably have more to say. On the other hand, having written the first serious musical portrayal of the spill, I've spoken to enough people emotionally devastated by that orchestral piece or my later electronic musical background to Peter Bevis' installation of bronzes, I feel that I've said enough.

When people see these images, it can be cathartic, or it can lead to melancholy, depression or to flashbacks. If I had a say in it, all the top 500 employees and board members of Exxon in 1989 would have to watch videos of all the art exhibits about the EVOS - for week or months on end - just like this:

Here's a link to a real video that will be at the Bunnell Street show - Eleanor, by Tim Geers.

image at top - oiled fish floats by Sheryl Maree Reily of Fairbanks


Anonymous said...

I am not listening to the second Mp3...Thanks for sharing...we recently had a (small) oil spill in SF bay, compared to this but many Birds were devastated, seals died, migrating birds, dead.
Nothing on the scale of this....
I can't imagine how devastating it was....And you have a gov. who bows to the oil gods....OMG!

Anonymous said...

That should of been I am NOW listening...sorry

Brendan Joel Kelley said...

a "2 Girls 1 Cup" reference? Really?

Philip Munger said...


It has multiple definitions, some pre-dating its current porno-scatological one.

Anonymous said...

four years on the scene background explaining over and over again to reporters scientists photographers writers legislators the PEW Trust ---

The Sound Was Silent with Death

and horror raged when the malformed herring returned

fighting the government State and Federal in addition to Oil Companies - it was a Blast a nuclear mass destruction from tiny clams to orcas too many otters eagles deer ate voles and toxicity worked its way up - Forget Bout This? NO WAY

I Am A Witness

Anonymous said...

i was administrative addressing politicians, reporters playing background grant writer responsible to listening, taking notes and responding to any citizen who stopped me on the street.

got their personal stories out as it was happening.
CNN told me to cut costs they were recording over their tapes.

control of the media will get you government attention - - - 20 years; you have energy and heart Be Positive and Productive - assumed my post included the words "Exxon Valdez Oil Spill 24Mar89

20 years later and Senator Stevens oily little man which he is - a former neighbor in anchorage... has been CONVICTED and walks free.

in Killer Kansas City - four people were shot last night unsure why...and 13 in Alabama. folks get so upset when 4 year old little girls go missing...

save the trees the birds the whales listen to Mother Nature and you will Know how you are to respond to all this information. Sorry to hear you are seeing Death by Industry ... one day during next four years (89-93) sent a seagull on the evening plane to anchorage with notes for it to be directed to my pup's vet. he called me to say, "there is nothing to be done ... hard to save every one".

EXXONGeorgeBushTheFirst priced a seagull's worth at $12.39. tis anniversary eight days.

thank heavens Palin and the Million Dollar Bridge caught the Lower 48's Attention!!!!

Save ANWR!!!!

Save Alaska Natives....

Sending you Peace