Must See Shows, Part 1 – EARTH: Fragile Planet

image: Bill Carman‘s painting for EARTH: Fragile Planet.  Buy a print.

Like every other scarf-loving New York resident, the oppressive heat wave this summer has sent me fleeing for the most air-conditioned corners of the city.  And what better place to spend a few hours avoiding the burning sidewalk than art galleries?

Recently, I’ve hit up three very different exhibitions that I’m more than happy to recommend!  Here’s number one… it has been up for months (while I’ve apparently been living in a cave), act quickly and go before the end of the week!

EARTH: Fragile Planet

June 3 – July 31, The Society of Illustrators

This group exhibit of 120 illustrators showcases editorial and artistic commentary on the state of the environment today, using a variety of media including digital and traditional painting, video and sculpture.  To make the wide range of work more cohesive, the show is divided into five categories: water, wildlife, earth, air and energy.

Overall, it was poignant for me to see more illustrators getting involved with the environment, in light of all my thinking about the recent Gulf oil spill catastrophe.  Here were some of my highlights:


Peter de Seve, Thar She Blows (sketch)

De Seve’s character work (he’s known for the creatures of the Ice Age franchise and the Philomel book Duchess of Whimsy) is so fantastic that even a sketch stands out.  His New Yorker cover idea reminds me of the Ripple sketch blog that’s raising money to save wildlife affected by the oil spill.  Check out Peter’s own post on the show here.


Betsy Lewin, Blue-Footed Boobies (watercolor)

Ted Lewin, Impenetrable Forest (watercolor)

I’m always excited to see the work of my alma mater’s favorite couple… as a watercolor artist, I’ve been looking up to them for years!  Ted’s densely forested piece was right on track with his other work, but I was surprised at the realism of Betsy’s beautiful watercolor piece.  The book from which it’s excerpted, Booby Hatch, shows an early side to her art, pre-Click, Clack, Moo, that I wasn’t familiar with.

Tim O’Brien, Giraffe In The Alley (oil and gouache)

Even though I never took a class with Tim O’Brien, I was already on the lookout for Pratt professors.  But my mouth literally dropped open at the sight of his contribution to the show!  His imagery, of a giraffe in a dark alley, was right out of the sketches of a children’s book dummy I created years ago – High Hopes.  For artists, seeing someone else’s art with the same concept makes one’s skin crawl (I used to fear it before critiques).  In this case, though, I just had to marvel at the hilarity of such a strange image being thought up twice.  See his post on the evolution of the piece here.

Tim O’Brien vs. Annie – so weird!


Britt Spencer, Footprints Through Appalachia (gouache)

Like Peter de Seve, I’m a big fan of Britt Spencer’s animated characters and his true-story Philomel book (again!) about the giraffe (again!) who became famous.  More importantly, though, his personification of the “giant” mining industry, tromping through the delicate green Appalachians, brought up an issue I don’t often hear about.  Since Footprints Through Appalachia is a smaller piece, I loved its pairing with Justin Gerard’s Strange Friend, (mixed media) below.  Understated but meaningful.


Rudy Gutierrez, U Kill Me, U Kill U (acrylic on canvas)

Rudy was one of my all-time favorite professors (I signed up for his class year after year!).  To me, he is the master of storytelling through a unique visual language.  Whenever I’m reflecting on my style and questioning whether I’m being true to myself, I always go back to the advice I’ve received from him. This large piece is no exception to his way with words!  The violent energy of his painting only further brings out the poetry written throughout, and it is impossible not to really feel something on viewing it.  Truly inspiring.


Materials for the Arts, with Liz Lomax, 3-D illustrator, and Eric Lewis, sculptor

As I was checking out the downstairs gallery, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the short video on loop, and I’m so glad I finally sat down and paid attention!  The video documents two of the exhibition’s 3-D artists, Lomax and Lewis, visiting Materials For The Arts, a warehouse that collects donated items to recycle and supply to schools and cultural arts programs and organizations.  Tons of materials and found objects of every kind, otherwise trashed, are brought to their warehouse, where artists and educators can pick through for only the cost of a “thank you”.

It’s an absolutely amazing program, and I encourage everyone to take advantage and help MFTA keep being so successful!  If you have extra materials lying around your studio, please consider donating here.  And don’t forget to see the video and Liz’s work here, and with Eric’s work here!

Can’t get to the show in the next few days?  Get more on Earth: Fragile Planet at their Tumblr page!


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