“We are also all responsible for the solution and we must work together to protect the balance of life,” states photographer Jane Fulton Alt. These words resonated within me, so I felt compelled to share this story of how two talented artists are striving to make a difference concerning the Gulf oil spill…~Lori


The backlash from the Gulf oil spill continues to build, with the art world being no exception to the growing protest. Demonstrators have thrown an oil-like substance and feathers at the entrance to Tate Britain in London and on statues in the British Museum in protest of the museums’ BP (now an international company) sponsorship. More than 170 artists have written an open letter protesting the sponsorships.
In the aftershock of what experts are calling the largest offshore spill in U.S. history, artists are responding accordingly by doing what they do best: creating works that reflect the impact of the disaster on the world, using a multitude of mediums to portray their interpretations.

  • Two such artists have decided to tackle this from different angles: German sculptor/painter, Heide Hatry uses mixed media creations, such as covering found animal corpses in crude oil, to illustrate the grisly impact of the spill on the ecosystem.
  • American photographer Jane Fulton Alt explores people instead, snapping pictures of families from diverse ethnic backgrounds at the beach, covered with an oil-like substance.

Left: Heide Hatry, ‘Struggeling Bird’, mixed media on canvas; Right: Jane Fulton Alt from ‘Crude Awakening’

Hatry’s artistic endeavors converge with her empathy.“I intended in my own work to evoke the tragedy being visited upon the earth and sea that is choking its life from it right now and to motivate people to help. It is difficult to not look away when you see an actual animal suffering, andI wanted to demand awareness by putting the harsh truth directly in front of the viewer, unmitigated by distance,”she told MutualArt.com.

Indeed, Hatry’s work is nothing if not confrontational. The slick, blackened animals featured in her works are all-too realistic. The artist’s pieces are shockingly truthful, poignant reminders of the consequences of human carelessness with regards to the environment.
We have come to accept and live with the fact that the world is seriously wounded…art can remind us of this, says Hatry.


Heide Hatry, Destroyed Bird, 2010, Mixed media on canvas & Heide Hatry, Oil Spill Lizard, 2010, mixed media on canvas

Photographer, Alt agrees wholeheartedly. Her aptly titled Crude Awakening features eerie photographs of families of all ethnic backgrounds and ages at the beach — completely covered in what appears to be crude oil. (It’s not – the substance is non-toxic, but has the appearance and texture of the real stuff).
Like Hatry and others, Alt has responded to the BP catastrophe by producing ‘spill-centered’ works that serve as symbols warning humankind about the fallibility of technology, and its disastrous impact on the world. “We are all responsible for leading lives that create demand for unsustainable energy. We are also all responsible for the solution and we must work together to protect the balance of life.
Alt explains, “I initially wanted to use real oil but did not think it would be safe. I tried to simulate oil in Photoshop which did not work. I thought the project was dead. Then I went to a BP protest in Chicago and casually asked another protester if she would consider modeling with real oil. She said yes which totally shocked me. We then brainstormed about other non toxic substances we might utilize.”
The oil-drenched subjects in the photographs stare out of the photos solemnly, and the effect is certainly disconcerting. The viewer is forced to acknowledge the consequences of our indifference regarding the environment, especially with regards to the future…what kind of world are we leaving our children?

Thank you to Shani Rosenfelder of MutualArt.com for sharing this intersting story.
All proceeds from the benefit exhibition help the Audubon Gulf Oil Response, the premiere organization aiding wildlife in the Gulf.

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